By Alyson Mitchell and Gianna Lopez
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
The Niagara University ESports team consists of six different teams: Four teams consisting of FIFA, Super Smash Bros, Ultimate Rocket League and Overwatch all compete at the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC); the other two teams also play competitively with League of Legends and Valorant.
ESports president and captain of the League of Legends team is Jacob Arends. Arends is a junior double-major in computer information science and history. As president, Arends organizes the teams, coaches, events, fundraisers and the social media accounts.
“We accept all students who want to join. Esports is truly a club where anyone who enjoys video games can come together as a community and enjoy the same interests together,” says Arends.
The Valorant team has recently competed at the Collegiate Valorant Conference running last September to early October. The conference lasted for five weeks. The team competed in one match per week. NU ESports finished in fourth place with two wins and three losses.
“While their results didn't show on paper, they were able to put up strong competitive games against schools such as Virginia Tech and West Virginia,” says Arends.
The League of Legends team will compete in the spring semester in the Riot Scholastic Association of America as part of the MAAC conference. Last spring, the team finished in third place overall in both regular season and postseason. This semester, the team is hoping to grab a MAAC and national title.
Due to COVID-19, the teams have mainly practiced and competed from home. Before the Nest closed, athletes were allowed to come in during their scheduled practice time, however each athlete had to supply their own headset.
“It’s hard to compete as a team when physically separated. While you can hear the excitement and shouts, it's hard to bond and celebrate when you can’t see everyone's faces; it's hard to bond when you can’t physically celebrate wins together,” says Arends.
COVID-19 affected team morale but it also affected their recruitment process. ESports relies on students showing up to game nights and watching their competitions for further engagement. This student engagement will not only boost team numbers but fundraising, as well.
The team, like all other sports, has a main roster. During competitions, the team has its main players along with substitutes.
Daniel Copeland is a freshman ESports athlete, a substitute for the Overwatch team, and computer information science major.
“Overwatch is a multiplayer competitive game, team versus team. During competitions, when our main group of people aren’t there, I would fill in. I am mainly a substitute for tanks and there is another substitute for support,” says Copeland.
Athletes are allowed to play on multiple teams within ESports. However, this is uncommon due to its time-consuming nature. Some ESports athletes are also traditional student-athletes. Esports has three athletes that are a part of traditional sports teams: Kyle Smith and Joe Tevlin play on Niagara’s baseball team and Marco Wilson is a part of the swimming and diving team.
Twitch is a video livestreaming platform typically used by video game enthusiasts. Twitch allows everyone to watch and sub to their favorite players. The platform gives players a place to market their skills to a large audience while also developing their skills. Twitch allows players to make money from livestreaming their game play.
Twitch streamer Pokimane has over 6 million subscribers and makes near $250,000 per year. The 24-year-old has been active since 2013. She competes mainly in League of Legends and Fortnite.
Currently, no athlete is offered a scholarship through ESports. The team plays against highly competitive schools that offer full-ride scholarships to their athletes. Niagara has yet to discuss the possibility of a scholarship opportunity for its ESport student athletes. While Niagara doesn’t currently offer scholarships, athletes still have the opportunity to win scholarships through MAAC and other championships.
ESports, like other teams, uses recruitment to scout future athletes. Recruiters will often ask for video highlights of the athletes games. Twitch has offered a platform for recruiters to scout players whose high schools do not have an ESports team. Most of the schools that Niagara competes against have recruitment processes in place. Currently, this recruitment work is done by Arends.
Arends expresses that every student is welcomed to join ESports either as a competitive member or as a casual player. The team holds game nights and tournaments for all students to join, even non-members.
In the future, Arends hopes to see more student involvement with ESports. While it is a relatively new sport, especially to Niagara, ESports is currently the fastest growing sports industry and has a lot more to offer than people might assume. ESports also rivals Canisius, however, the turnout to watch their matches has been low.
“It would be great to see the Niagara community support the ESports team like they would the traditional sports teams,” says Arends.
In March, the team will be traveling to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the MAAC championship.
“This trip is an opportunity for our Super Smash Bros, Rocket League, Overwatch and League of Legends teams to play on a big stage and take home a MAAC championship title,” says Arends.
Four of Niagara’s ESports teams will partake in the first annual Vincentian Cup that takes place on Dec. 9-12. This is a charity event, meaning all money raised during the competition will be split amongst each of the competing schools’ emergency fund for students. The teams competing in this competition are League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros. All the games can be watched on Niagara’s ESports Twitch site.
“It will be exciting to compete against schools outside of our conference for the first time, especially since it's for charity,” said Arends.
To catch the team in action and show your support, check out its Twitch streaming at https://www.twitch.tv/niagarauesports. The team also has a merch store that acts as a club fundraiser and can be found at https://nuesports.itemorder.com/sale.
The team’s Twitter and Instagram can be found at @EsportsNiagara @nuesports