ODU will launch a varsity esports team this month

What we know so far and a review of their chosen games

~Felix Phommachanh, Managing Editor of CNUTV~

With the pandemic still going on and a majority of physical sports like american football and basketball slowly coming back, many people migrated, or even took interest, in esports. Esports, or electronic sports, are where people play video games at the competitive level. It has been growing within our generation for some time now, and that is due, in part, to the easy field of entrance. You only have to play decently in a certain video game. In addition, esports competition has more global appeal compared to traditional sports. With prize pools up to thirty million dollars, these games get broadcasted on streaming sites like Twitch and YouTube for millions to watch.

Closeup hands of anonymous male holding modern controller while playing video game in dark room. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

It’s a growing scene, and Old Dominion University (ODU) has caught on to the change. They’ve created a varsity esports team said to debut later this month. They join many other colleges and universities that already have varsity esport teams. 

They will be making many teams for different games. According to their website, they will be holding tryouts for League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Counter-Strike: Global-Offensive, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Rainbow Six: Siege, Valorant, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Call of Duty (CoD), FIFA, NBA 2K, and Madden. They will house the teams in the Webb University Center, where the faculty will be retrofitted to hold high-end gaming personal computers (PCs) and consoles for the students to use recreationally and for teams to train. In addition, the faculty will be able to broadcast and livestream their competitions. The PCs will also be equipped with game development software, as well.

This is an interesting development as the university is acknowledging esports growing influence in the mainstream media. With many competitive games on the market, I am surprised by some of the games ODU chose. Some are perfect, while others are… well, interesting.

The Good:

  • League of Legends (LoL): A moba (Multiplayer Online Battle Area) made by Riot Games. It is a popular game that brings viewership and a large prize pool. It pits two teams of five against each other, and the goal is for one team to destroy the other’s base. Players get to pick and ban characters from a list of 150 (as of August 2020). Each character has their own unique abilities and traits. It is a premier esports game. 
  • Counter-Strike: Global-Offensive (CS:GO): A first-person shooter created by Valve. This game has many iterations from the original modification of Half-Life to Counter-Strike: Source, with CS:GO being the latest. The game pits two teams of five against one another, with one team planting a bomb while the other defends. They compete for thirty rounds, and the team that wins sixteen rounds wins the match. The rounds last for two minutes. What makes this game different is one minute before each round starts, players can gain in-match cash to buy their loadouts. It is a legacy esport, in my opinion.
  • Rainbow Six Siege (R6): A first-person tactical shooter published by Ubisoft. Their esport scene had a rough beginning, but with community and publisher support, it became a great game to watch and play. Similar to LoL, R6 pits two teams of five against one another, with one team picking from a list of attacker characters or operators, and the other picks from a list of defender operators. The matches are played with the attacking team trying to plant a bomb, and the other team defends. It is similar to CS:GO, but with key differences. Each operator has a unique gadget to help them get to their objective. An attacking operator, like Ash, has a breaching rounds that could destroy non-reinforced walls, and a defender operator, like Tachanka, can place a turret down. As of writing this, he still has his turret, but they are reworking him. Matches are done out of a best two of three system. There are three maps to play on. 
  • Valorant: A new player to the esport scene, it has a growing community with many teams signing players. It is made by Riot Games, who as mentioned earlier, are also the publishers of LoL. It is a first-person shooter with gameplay and gunplay similar to CS:GO, and it has operators equipped with limited utilities, such as smoke domes and flashbangs. Players can earn in-match money to buy armor, weapons and abilities to try to plant their bomb. This is a young scene since Valorant released this past summer. People from other esports games like CS:GO and Overwatch come over to make a name for themselves.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Smash Ultimate): A fighting game made by Nintendo, it brings all different characters from many different franchises. From Mario from the Super Mario series, Link from The Legend of Zelda and even Microsoft properties Banjo and Kazooie from Banjo-Kazooie. Everyone’s here! I have to admit, Smash Ultimate is a good entry fighting game in terms of reputation, but a better fighting game to make an esport team would be Tekken, in my opinion.

The Bad:

  • Overwatch: A first-person hero shooter made by Blizzard entertainment, this game had competitive support, however, with new updates and heroes, the Overwatch League (OWL), which was the most competitive league in the game, has died out. Many teams disbanded, and members of OWL teams have moved to different games with competitive support, such as Valorant. It is still an active game, but the competitive scene within is faltering. 

The other games, Apex Legends, Fortnite, CoD, Rocket League, and the sports games are good. Apex and Fortnite have mainstream appeal, and CoD has been a staple in modern esports. Rocket League has a small scene, but the matches are as exciting as soccer. The three sports games, FIFA, Madden and NBA 2K, are the most traditional sports you can have in esport competition. 

Overall, I think ODU is making a smart decision in making  varsity esport teams alongside their traditional sports. Not many of us can compete in football or soccer at the competitive level, but video games have a broader appeal and easier bar of entry. I wish them the best of luck. 

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