My experience with collegiate esports

My career in college started at a small public school called Western Oregon University. I didn’t know anyone there, so I went to their League of Legends club. This club was much cooler than I thought it was going to be. It took up two separate computer labs and already had official Riot goodies that were sent to them. This was back in 2014-15 when collegiate esports was still very much in its infancy. It was a great group of gamers who enjoyed casual games with their friends. However, after a couple of meetings, I realized it wasn’t for me.

I had stopped going to the club and then transferred to the University of Oregon at the end of my sophomore year. I looked for more esports clubs here and found another League of Legends club. This one was much smaller and wasn’t even an official school club. It consisted of maybe a dozen students using their laptops in some basement classroom of an old building on campus. Although I enjoyed the friends I made in that club, I still was not satisfied. I realized what I was looking for was real competition. I wanted to be on a team with other players trying our hardest to become the best team we could be. The club administration at the time just didn’t care.

The next year, new club admins came in to replace the ones that graduated. I saw this as an opportunity and asked if I could create and coach a competitive team. At this point, I didn’t even know there was a Riot sponsored tournament. I wanted to compete not to win some big tournament, but simply to test my abilities. Anyway, the new club president allowed it and away I went.

I was made a club officer and started advertising in all the channels I could that I was making a team. I held LAN tryouts at the student union on campus and almost 3 dozen people showed up. League of Legends has teams of 5. It turns out that making an amateur esports team is actually quite easy since every esports title comes with its own ranking system. Professional teams are the only ones that really need to ignore rankings as anyone applying to a professional team is likely in the top 500 of the country anyway. Even though I tracked everyone’s in-game stats, ran the numbers, tried out as many different team variations as I could, I ended up with my final 5 players being the 5 highest ranked anyways. I had my 5 but there were still players out there hungry for competition, so I created a B team or a JV team.

The growing pains were tough, I learned that people really don’t like to practice in person and would much rather scrim from their homes. It was pretty difficult finding scrim partners. I would spend hours a day setting up scrims for the week. On top of that, I had to schedule the scrims at a time everyone could attend. Managing the schedules of 5 college students proved difficult as anyone could have class from 8am to 7pm. It was also hard to find quality scrim partners. There were very few teams that we were evenly matched, we either destroyed our opponents or they destroyed us.

At the end of the season, we ended up doing pretty decent. We finished around the middle of the pack for the west coast bracket of Riot’s uLoL tournament which is pretty good considering it’s a brand-new team of players who’ve never competed before and were up against schools already handing out scholarships to top ranked players.

That was my first real taste of esports, and from there I was hooked. I pretty much abandoned my long-time goal of going into finance to figure out how I can make a career out of this. How I went about that will be explored in future posts. For now, I hope this can offer some guidance to those still figuring out what they want to do as a career. I had been a finance guy for a long time in school, I started my high school’s finance club just to have stock market competitions (which I always won btw), I had read about a dozen books on investing and portfolio management, and I even went to school for a degree in Economics. But all of that took a back seat for esports. If you’re truly passionate about something but are unsure if it’s worth it to pursue, just try it out. If you’re young, you have nothing to lose. If you can’t find a place or community to pursue your passion, make one.

Published by Patrick McCarthy

An esports professional wanting to share my thoughts on this exciting space.

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