Video game competitions, or eSports, have recently begun to grow in popularity in the United States. This has led to Grand View University adding an eSports program for the 2017-2018 school year.
Arriving at GV
It started when President Kent Henning asked Jay Prescott, the vice president of student affairs, to attend an eSports conference held by the NAIA, even though he knew nothing about eSports.
“It’s been fun to learn about it,” Prescott said. “We hired a couple of really good coaches that know a lot about it, and that’s helped a lot.”
In just a few months, Prescott and the coaches assembled a team for League of Legends, one of seven games sanctioned by the National Association of Collegiate eSports.
The NACE is the governing body for competitive collegiate eSports. Like the NCAA and NAIA, the NACE has its own unique set of rules. One that stands out is that players can win and keep prize money from tournaments, on top of scholarships they receive for school.
“If they didn’t do that, there would be no incentive for players to come here,” said Cole McFarland, coach of the eSports team and Grand View alumnus. Players are given the opportunity to play eSports while going for a college degree, in case competitive gaming doesn’t work out.
That was the case for Jon Quach, the captain of the Grand View eSports program. Quach played League of Legends professionally but retired after getting burnt out from playing all day every day. Just when he was unsure of how he wanted to move on, he saw a Reddit post from Coach McFarland.
“I sent him an email, he was super interested, I came for a campus visit, and everything just clicked,” Quach said. Quach, who is majoring in game design and interactive analytics, said he liked the idea of having his education to fall back on once he was finished with eSports.
Quach has a history of creating teams from his professional playing days, so he was given the opportunity to help the program fill each role of the League of Legends team.
“We made a bunch of posts on forums like Reddit, where we got on the front page at one point,” Quach said. “We had a bunch of emails that we went through together, talking to people, giving them phone interviews, just talking to them and getting to know them. The hardest part was finding players that wanted to move to Iowa and go to school.”
This process is like a college basketball coach looking for centers and point guards that can play well at their positions. Basketball players get noticed by highlight videos on social media or recruiting websites, while most eSports players are found on leaderboards and message boards in the gaming community. All but two of the players of the Grand View eSports team were recruited from the Reddit post.
Although the schedule is less intense than playing professionally, the players are kept busy daily.
“I think the schedule is a little bit harder than most normal sports. Just because the practices are so much different,” McFarland said. Other sports at Grand View typically have an hour-long weight-lifting session, and a two-hour practice later in the day. The eSports players noted that sleep is hard to come by with classes during the day, homework after class and practicing four to seven hours each night.
Tournaments are set up through the NACe. They can be played online, or teams can travel to compete at a central location. Prize money is determined by the sponsors of each tournament.
The basement of the Nielsen residence building was refurbished to accommodate the new team. The “arena” is lined up with computers, comfortable gaming chairs and dimmed lighting. The players use this space to hang out as well.
The Grand View eSports team is already a close-knit group. After only a few weeks of playing together, they won the first tournament that they competed in.
If you want to watch a video of Grand View’s eSports team in action, go to viewfindergv.com/abcdef.