By Nadia Beidas
On March 3, from 3-5 pm, esports will host a grand opening for students to come and learn more about the esports club. This event will be hosted in the esports club lounge, located on the first floor of Fitzpatrick Hall.
Prior to the esports club lounge, esports had space in St. Charles Borromeo and had to cart equipment between buildings for tournaments, according to Jill Siegfried, Director of Student Recreation, Fitness and Wellness. With the new space, the equipment stays in one place, Siegfried said. The lounge features include 24 computers and two separate rooms. The rooms are for practice or for competitive gaming between schools in order for them to compete without distraction.
Siegfried added she is curious to see the kind of growth the esports team will get with the new facility, and the growth of esports as whole has been phenomenal. “It’s nice we’ve positioned ourselves to be a part of the enthusiasm that’s blooming in esports,” Siegfried said.
Dr. Dana Dominiak, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences and faculty advisor of esports, said the students put in a lot of effort into building the esports club. She said the students held fundraisers, created posters, held bake sales and hauled around their own equipment. She added that she helped the team get the necessary equipment and set it up.
Yesenia Gonzalez, who is pursuing her master’s degree in computer science with a double concentration in cyber security and digital forensics, was one of the seven founders of the esports club. Gonzalez said she handled the club’s infrastructure including organizing meetings, events and she planned the club charter.
Gonzalez also attended esports meetings and tournaments at Joliet Junior College and Northern Illinois University to see how the other esports clubs handled meetings and tournaments. These experiences assisted Gonzalez to develop background knowledge to plan Lewis esports events, she said.
“I love seeing how far the club has come and I look forward to seeing where is will be in the next couple of years,” Gonzalez said.
Computer Science major Tyler Starkus is the president of the esports club. Starkus said students can come to the lounge and play games or they can participate in competitive gaming. The esports club is open to all students and all majors and meets on Fridays at 3 p.m. in the esports lounge, Starkus said.
He added the club can put together teams, based on student interest, and participate in tournaments. The games for tournaments include League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Typically, tournaments are held on Saturdays, Starkus said.
This semester, there are three teams within the esports club preparing for tournaments in the games League of Legends, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Hearthstone, Starkus said and added there is always the potential to add more teams for tournaments. The League of Legends tournament will be held April 18.
Last semester, the team won a trophy in a League of Legends tournament, Starkus said. In the other tournaments they participated in last semester, the team was one loss away from qualifying for the next stage of the tournaments in League of Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and Rocket League.
The College League of Legends, led by Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, is composed of League of Legends players from colleges in the U.S. and Canada, Starkus said. Currently, the Lewis esports team is placed 24 out of 102 teams in their division, Starkus said.
In order to prepare for tournaments, the team practices playing games together and separately, Starkus said. Dominiak also said she will provide any support she can to help the team win more tournaments.
Starkus was interested in joining the esports club due to playing video games. “I’ve been playing video games my whole life,” Starkus said. He said his older brother was a part of the esports club and Starkus later joined the club as well.
Starkus was a big part of setting up the esports lounge, and would like more students to know about esports. “I want people on campus to know we [esports] actually exist,” Starkus said. He encourages students to join regardless of their skill level in gaming.
When asked how the esports team at Lewis compares with other university esports teams, Starkus said, “We are not a full program yet, so we don’t have recruitment. Our players come from the luck of the draw.” He mentioned it was fortunate that a team of good players came together to win the League of Legends tournament.
He added other universities have opportunities in the recruitment of students as well as full-ride scholarships for esports, similar to football team scholarships. He said even a $500 scholarship could make a difference in bringing more students to Lewis interested in esports. Starkus hopes these advantages will be available to Lewis students in the future.
Gonzalez also said she would like to see scholarships offered for esports, and the scholarships could bring in more students from around the country and abroad. She added she also hopes there will be an esports arena in the future.
Dominiak said esports is an opportunity for the future as there are careers in competitive video games. She added that there are talks about the possibility of a degree in esports in the future.
Dominiak said, “College esports is predicted to grow faster than college football.” Dominiak also said she expects the esports club at Lewis to grow by leaps and bounds.
Siegfried said the team could expand to having a varsity team and a junior varsity team. There is also the possibility of having two spaces for esports in the future, Siegfried said.
Dominiak added the esports lounge also gives students a safe place to hang out on campus, which is a comfort to parents.
“Club sports in general are a great way for students to connect, make friends and form lifelong relationships and really feel a part of the university,” Siegfried said, “I see this as an opportunity for those who do esports to do the same thing.”