Everything You May Have Thought About Video Games Has Changed
For years, sports have been a huge part of college life. Those athletes that excel in football, baseball, lacrosse and more have been looked upon as elite, dedicating time and energy to perfecting their craft. These days, there is a new type of athlete in town. One that exercises the mind versus exercising the body. Practices, strategy — all of these are important and attention is paid.
Welcome to Esports; it’s like Division I sports, but for video games.
That’s right, video games. And Stony Brook University’s Esports program, which recently transitioned from a club team to an organized team, is already winning big.
“For a long time, we were a club that people could just join,” said Divyan Jain, president of Stony Brook University Esports. But, he noted that schools with recognized Esports programs were given a considerable advantage versus those that were at the club level, from the way they played to the equipment they were able to afford.
“They have full Esports arenas, so decked out with all these computers and lights; there’s a viewing area, and they have professional commentators, a lot of them have partnerships with major content creators, and that’s something that we didn’t have access to as a USG funded club,” Jain said.
For the last six years, the goal was to fully transition Stony Brook from a club team. Now, under Recreation and Wellness, Stony Brook is a fully varsity-level Esports school, joining the ranks of Davenport, Winthrop and UC Irvine. “Now, we’re able to do things like potentially offer scholarships and hire people for a director or a coach position,” Jain said.
Thomas Lail, assistant director of Intramurals and Sport Clubs, said, “The university is recognizing that the ‘emerging trend’ seems to no longer be a trend but more of a something that’s going to be around. They wanted to get involved and invest in that for the future.”
And invest it did. With this new designation, the team has also moved into a new space in the Stony Brook Union. The Esports room is fresh, new, bigger and, through Recreation and Wellness, has been able to purchase equipment, like keyboards and monitors, that has made them a fierce competitor among other institutes of higher education.
“Basically, it’s a completely new deal for the players. And most of our teams compete from that room and use that room. It’s been a great help to the players,” Jain said.
Stony Brook, noted Jain, has three main teams — League of Legends, Valorant and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — but also competes in Rocket League and Overwatch. Stony Brook competes in the Premier League, which is the highest Esports League, and requires a constant dedication to their pursuit. Each of these teams has a captain that schedules practice time and scrims between other teams in hopes of improving game-play strategy. And, for these 100 students, the commitment to grow as a team and bring home some impressive victories has already shown proven results.
The Valorant team is second in the nation, losing to Northwood University in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) Grand Finals in Fall 2022; the League of Legends team finished their Fall 2022 season in the top 16; and its Counter Strike team placed top eight in the same season. Three players from Stony Brook are consistently in the top 100 in North America in rank. “We have a lot of really impressive talent at this school,” said Jain.
So, now that the team is really making headway, what’s next? That would be recruitment.
“The goal is to recruit people. The goal is to give scholarships to high schoolers, to offer scholarships to people who already play on the team, as they could be recruited to go pro,” Jain said. “If we can offer them a scholarship to stay and get an education and play semi-professionally for us, that would be good.”
Added Lail, “This is something that is no longer a trend and is moving towards a significant part of individuals’ lives, their campus life and educational journey. I definitely think there’s students on this campus who enjoy gaming and it’s definitely becoming more of a mainstay.”
— Emily Cappiello