When we last checked in with the UW esports community, they had just finished running one of their largest LAN events yet and had just gained a new sponsor. In the eight months since then, so much has changed that the idea of an in-person tournament is a risky proposition for many. But even as the world of traditional sports had practically stopped due to the pandemic, the world of esports continued to move along, slow but steady.
As esports saw itself catapulted to the forefront of entertainment during lockdown, the esports community at UW was able to leverage this newfound interest and finally achieved official status within the UW Athletics program – a massive long-term goal of theirs.
“The ability to have proper proceedings and promotion from UW departments can help our program grow at a stable rate with supervision from people who have made it their careers to develop programs such as this,” Nikolas Drakulovic, President of the UW Esports Club, said. “We found that the departments we were working with were just as excited as us about this cool new program and pushed it to be a priority last term and this term as they can see the value that esports can bring in a pandemic.”
As part of this new push, UW announced in early September it had officially joined the brand-new Ontario Post-Secondary Esports (OPSE) – a volunteer-run organization that aims to strengthen the collegiate esports system on a local scale. OPSE offers competitive leagues for some of the biggest games in esports such as team-based hero shooter Overwatch, high-octane vehicle sports Rocket League, and the ever popular League of Legends MOBA. Each league boasts significant prize support in the form of a $240,000 scholarship fund.
Following a public poll on social media, UW was able to put together a sizeable roster composed of three five-man League of Legends teams, two six-man Overwatch teams, and two three-man Rocket League teams, each fully staffed with its own set of coaches and substitutes.
Currently, UW is ranked in the top five on all three OPSE leagues, and all teams yet to lose a match. The Rocket League division has been able to push their success even further onto the Collegiate CarBall Association (CCA) – a separate league specifically focused on Rocket League – by earning one of 32 highly coveted slots at a qualifier tournament held in early October. With a perfect 6-0 match record, UW will move on to compete with several other post-secondary institutions across the US and Canada for a chance to win part of a $50,000 USD scholarship prize pool.
Congratulations to our entire UW roster for their newfound success, and best of luck in the rest of their competitive season. And to our readers, we encourage you to reach out to the UW esports club if you’re interested in participating, regardless of skill level.
“Something that I think is often misinterpreted about esports is the belief that esports is all about being the best at a game,” Dragulovic said. “Even if you are new to a game or have very little experience with it, if you go to an esports event, it is more than likely you will find somebody who would love to teach you.”