In March of 2016, former NBA player Rick Fox made headlines with a surprising statement about a new up-and-coming sport. “In two years, it’ll be on par with the NHL,” Fox told news outlets. When he made this claim, Fox wasn’t referring to lacrosse. Rather, he was speaking about the world’s fastest growing sport, Electronic Sports — otherwise known as eSports or competitive video gaming.
Over the past decade, eSports has popularized itself as a highly competitive community of individuals that connect over a multitude of cities, countries, and continents. In eSports, gamers from around the world congregate to compete in games such as League of Legends and Super Smash Bros. For some Queen’s students, these may be the games they grew up playing in their basement.
Amidst the sudden growth of the sport, many top-tier schools such as Yale and Harvard have begun to field teams to participate in intercollegiate competition. Unsurprisingly, a large population at Queen’s has made the most of the growing eSports culture.
Amber Zhang, Comm ’18 and co-founder of the Queen’s eSports Association (QEA), has been at the forefront of eSport’s rising popularity at Queen’s. “Queen’s eSports is not just a video game club,” she told The Journal. “It’s there to reinvent the lifestyle of video games and to take a more proactive, communal, and social stance on what is seen as, very traditionally, introverted.”
This positive stance towards gaming is being reflected in numbers that QEA is currently seeing. The sum of all of QEA’s groups — which are divided up by video game interest — currently amounts to 1,576 Queen’s students. That’s approximately 6.5 percent of the entire Queen’s population.
Since eSport’s sudden rise, students have flocked to massive competitions hosted by game developers. The most popular, the North American Collegiate Championship, is held annually and is, as indicated by Zhang, one of the most sought-after events of the year. Last year, the University of British Colombia reigned victorious at the event.
“Typically, there are around 250 teams competing across America and Canada. Canada does have a very great thing going on … a lot of people think that the American universities have a monopoly, when that’s not the case”, Zhang said.
While the commitment required to be involved with QEA can vary, many students choose to dedicate a large piece of their lives to eSports. Zhang noted that “the competitive teams are typically a team of five or six and they are on a much stricter regimen where they have to play against other universities for practice.”
In a society that consumes sports such as hockey, baseball and basketball like food, members of the eSports community tend to draw heavy criticism for claiming that something that involves minimal physical strain could be considered a sport. But Zhang has her own thoughts on the way that eSports should be perceived.
“[People] will typically have a harder time viewing eSports as a legitimate sport because they have a more physical approach to it,” Zhang said. She objects to this idea, saying, “there is a drastic emotional and teamwork aspect of eSports. It depends if you see eSports [in] a physical aspect or [in] a competitive and teamwork heavy aspect.”
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