Competitive eSports -- playing video games like League of Legends and DOTA against other teams, often in tournaments with prize money -- is a growing sport all over the world. A little-known fact to many students here is that the UBC hosts arguably the best college eSports team in North America. The eSports Club went to three major tournaments last year, and this year, they’re confident about their chances at the top prize of $180,000 at the North American Collegiate Championships. We caught up with a few members of their competitive team.
Manager - Carman Lam “Chiyeuk" (CL)
Jungle - Jason Dong “ProofOfPayment" (JD)
Mid - Bob Qin “BobqinXD" (BQ)
ADC - Sean Wang "Heat Waves” (SW)
Support - Jeremy Koberstein “Remie" (JK)
Sub (ADC) - Brian Choi “TehBChoi" (BC)
What’s a brief summary of your club, for someone who doesn’t know anything about it?
CL: The club is more of the social aspect. They organize events such as viewing parties for important tournaments that people would want to watch together. They also organize competitive tournaments that are open to anyone of any level. It’s not, like, hardcore-hardcore. They also hold fan meets sometimes if we can get pro players who are in Vancouver.
You guys just finished a leg of a tournament, right?
JD: We played IvyLoL and CSL (Collegiate StarLeague) at the same time, which are two of the tournaments that qualify us into the seeding for the really big tournament that’s coming up (North American Collegiate Championships). We won first place in both of them -- basically, we stomped the competition.
BQ: Way to be humble, Jason.
When are you moving on to the NACC?
CL: We move on to the playoffs in April. They have 16 seeds, and eight of them have been determined so far…. They’ll be playing in the middle of March, and after they’ve determined that, we’ll start with playoffs for those 16 teams.
There’s a bunch of prize money up for grabs, right?
CL: Yeah, in scholarships.
JD: The total prize pool for the tournament is around $400,000, so for first place that’s $180,000 split six ways.
What do you think your chances of winning are?
JD: Yeah, our team’s pretty confident.
What would it mean to you if you won?
JD: For us, getting our name out would be pretty big, I know some of us are big showoffs on the team, so we like getting our name out there.
JD: So that’d be a big ego boost. And, you know, the $30,000 is good too.
CL: We’d also like to get the faculty and staff more involved. I don’t have any concrete plans yet, but I have reached out to them before, during their sports review … maybe instead of UBC eSports being a social club, we could be a competitive club.
How should people go about getting involved with either the club or the competitive team?
JD: We have tryouts for the teams. Sometimes we’ll have members of the premier team, like some of us, try out the newer members who have reached a certain rank and we’ll see if they’re good enough. At first we’ll put them on one of our B teams to see if they can work together competitively.
How do tryouts work?
JD: It’s just a standard 5v5, they just play the game and we see how they play and if they’re good or not.
Just like any sport.
Do you guys consider eSports to be a “real” sport?
JD: I think I would. It’s just such a big thing, you know? Like the Staples Center last year, there were so many people there. It was a sold-out stadium -- it’s really like going to any other sport.
JK: I’d call it closer to chess than any other sport.
JD: Well it’s more dynamic [than chess]. Things are constantly happening and it’s really exciting, whereas with chess …
CL: I think the culture is more sports-like, with all the hype and stuff, but for the players themselves, it might be more like playing chess.
What do you think is the best way to get people into eSports?
JD: I think a lot of it has to do with the company. So, Riot Games, they can hold a big part in promoting eSports itself, like what DOTA 2 did with The International … real players threw money into a fund, and it made this huge 12 million dollar prize pool tournament. So if Riot could do something like that it’d really promote the growth of eSports really quickly.
CL: Yeah, the Compendium [prize pool] got a lot of media attention.
JK: I think eSports is just growing on its own, you don’t have to do too much about it, it’s just going to run its course naturally.
Do you guys stream?
JD: Some of us have tried streaming, it’s kind of hard to get viewers.… I’ve streamed before but I don’t anymore, it’s just too much of a pain.
JK: It’s really hard to get a fanbase. It’s like feast or famine. The more viewers you have, the higher you go on the list. And then [as a viewer] you start looking at the top of the list. So everyone just goes in and watches whatever the highest one is.
What about streaming as a club, is that something you’re going to do in the future?
JD: I’m not sure how well it’d work.
BQ: It’d be hard, because people either watch you for entertainment purposes, or because you’re a pro player.… I don’t think a lot of people are attracted to just watching a club play League of Legends.
Do any of you make money doing this?
JD: I think Bob has made a bit of money.
BQ: I used to play for a lot of teams.
Is the only way to make money through winning tournaments?
BQ: Yeah, basically.
JD: Mostly, [as well as] sponsorships … that’s about it, right Bob?
Do any of you guys plan to make this into a career?
JD: I think right now it’s more of a hobby, because to do it seriously you have to give up a lot of things.
Are there any games you don’t compete in that you’d like to?
JD: Do we have to be good at them?
JD: I’d love to play CS:GO, that game’s so much fun!
Are you organizing any tournaments here?
CL: Every year we have the UBC Cup, where we host tournaments for all the games, like Smash, Hearthstone I’m not sure about, League of Legends, DOTA-
The quotation beginning "In other games it’s not that hard..." was originally attributed to Bob Qin. It has been removed, as it was stated by someone who is not a member of the UBC eSports Club. The Ubyssey regrets this error.