by Ryan Cox ’18
Who said the Big East has to be strictly physical sports? This weekend the Providence eSports Club, a team of students competing in video game tournaments, sent teams in Rocket League and League of Legends to Big East playoffs. This is the first semester that the club has been in existence, and teams have only played together for a few weeks. Providence eSports also has Hearthstone and Overwatch teams that play in third-party tournaments through Tespa, a collegiate eSports organization.
The club’s co-presidents are Zachary Gandara ’19 and Matthew McGuane ’20, and the club is made up of about 70 members, a mix of casual and competitive players. “The club accepts people who play all games, on any platform,” said Gandara. “You don’t have to be a competitive player to join. We want it to be a fun environment for everyone, not just for competitive players.”
Gandara and McGuane admitted that putting teams together took some time, but was worth the time and effort. “The school came to us and basically said, ‘you know the students, you know who would be interested.’ So, we scouted to get the teams together and coordinated captains just by knowing everyone,” said Gandara. “PC got into it because of pressure from Big East. Other schools have had teams for a while,” such as DePaul University and Villanova University.
Because of the timing of the tournament and how quickly it was put together, seeding was determined by a Swiss-style tournament, where every team plays every other team in the pool before the top four teams moved on to semifinals. Providence College was expected to finish last because the team was so new, but finished fourth overall in League of Legends, losing to the champion, DePaul.
“For such little time and having been seeded so low, the team did an incredible job,” said Gandara.In addition to playing on the club’s Overwatch team, Gandara also leads the club’s production team, which includes streaming the matches, hiring commentators, and keeping the match coverage running smoothly.
For their first semester in operation, and the first year that eSports have been recognized by the Big East, the streams did exceptionally well, with around 700 viewers watching the live stream via the Electronic Sports League (ESL).
As for non-Big East play, the competitive teams within Providence eSports have competed in tournaments through Tespa, mainly on Activision Blizzard games, such as Overwatch. Gandara, a member of Overwatch is currently ranked 200th in the United States.
Gandara hopes that in the future the team can have a space dedicated for the club, instead of reserving the lower level of Ruane for playing and production. The Office of Student Activities and Cultural Programming has expressed their desire to give the club space in the Slavin Center. Administrators hope that the central location will allow the student body to rally behind the newly-formed team.
Within the Big East, the eSports division plans to establish a regular season and a tournament system similar to the Big East athletics playoffs. The NCAA has yet to recognize eSports as an official part of collegiate athletics, but pressure from the Big East and the growing popularity of eSports are pushing the NCAA toward recognizing eSports soon.
Providence eSports is now open to all interested members, both those who want to play competitively or those who wish to play casually.