On November 21st at the US Oracle Arena, Six League of Legends teams from around the world fought hard for the final prize and to qualify for Worlds in IEM Oakland season 11. But serious competitions aside, there was one interesting event match held between professional teams' that lightened up the atmosphere. It was a friendly match between UC Berkeley and Stanford University. The two universities were renowned for having old rivalries in various sports, eSports included.
It was not a major tournament with a huge prize, but the friendly match was nonetheless very entertaining and received a positive response from the audience. The cheers of the audience came with the same vigor they showed during the professional games, and the enthusiasm of the college athletes throughout the game illustrated the passion they have as professional players. Even I was proud to see Stanford University winning.
After IEM Oakland ended, I contacted Stanford University's eSports team to conduct an interview. I wanted to hear the stories behind their victory and enthusiasm. Natalie Chan, Senior Advisor to the Stanford University eSports team, still seemed to be savoring the joy of the victory when she responded to our interview request.
Please give us a brief overview of Stanford University's gaming club and eSports team.
Stanford has had a gaming club on campus for many years but it has been renewed this last summer with new leadership and a new name. They are a passionate group of students who want to see eSports excel at Stanford. The League of Legends team was formed from a pool of interested and talented students who competed in tryouts on campus. Due to the timing of IEM Oakland, the actual team comprised of both players from tryouts but also talented, high skill leveled players and alumni who were available to compete on a holiday (Thanksgiving) weekend.
How long has the eSports Club been in operation at Stanford University and what history does it have?
The eSports club on campus is currently called the Stanford Video Game Association. I am the primary advisor for the club and the student president is Jason Lin. The club began after renewing as a different name in Summer 2016. The League of Legends and eSports teams operate in collaboration with the club but are NOT under the club leadership. I am the primary advisor for both the League of Legends and Overwatch teams. Our Overwatch team recently won the 3rd place in Corsair University's tournament and our League of Legends team recently won at IEM Oakland over Berkeley.
Could you tell me about who’s in the club and who can join? And also how you guys operate the club in the school?
Membership in the club is open to all interested students who share the mission of the club. The club operates primary on Facebook and holds LAN parties on campus.
How did you prepare to win against UC Berkeley in the last IEM Oakland and how did you feel about winning?
The team practiced heavily in the weeks prior to the competition in Oakland and felt confident in their ability as a team. However, we have never scrimmed or played against Berkeley prior to this match. Additionally, neither of the teams knew their opponents before the show match so it was a blind match. Neither team had the opportunity to study the other - making it a very difficult match to predict the outcome of.
In the United States, the popularity of various college sports is high. How are the college eSports systems structured and how are they operating leagues?
A - College eSports is very complex and varies quite a bit depending on the school and region. Traditionally, the west coast has excelled at creating and establishing huge and reputable gaming clubs. Each college operates independently under a different group of student leaders and is recognized by most universities as an official student organization. Some colleges have gained further support of their school administration (UC Irvine, Robert Morris, etc), and have established entire programs - supported by full-time staff, to ensure success. Other colleges have attracted the attention of faculty and staff members at schools to help advise their clubs and obtain corporate sponsorships from industry leaders to help support club activities. College leagues come together in competition, primarily those lead by Tespa, uLoL, and CSL. These intercollegiate tournaments connect student leaders together, to learn from each other, and also to encourage friendly competition and begin new rivalries between colleges.
How popular are eSports among students? Are there interesting stories about eSports in school?
eSports is an exponentially growing field; more and more students are becoming both interested and invested in this industry. Many students who played for fun or recreationally now see themselves presented with an opportunity to pursue something they love. It's an extremely exciting time for students to see professional players compete in their favorite childhood game. I personally am alumni at UC Irvine - where we built our gaming club from the ground up and have even established an amazing eSports scholarship program. It's amazing to see this industry evolve and grow while I am also growing and learning myself.
In most cases, educational institutions do not like video games. Stanford University is renowned for building creative talents that are widely known throughout the world. Is there any part of eSports that is supported by the school?
The Stanford University administration is still learning about this new field. It is a blessing that the Pac12 Conference has decided to engage in eSports, catching the attention of the President and administration. As a result, members of the administration are very eager to learn about the new initiatives surrounding eSports and how they can help support it here on campus.
You finished the year 2016 on a good note; what is the goal of Stanford's eSports club in 2017?
Our goal for the team is to establish regular practices and continue playing together. We hope to perform well in upcoming uLoL, Tespa, and potentially the Pac12 Conference to earn even more recognition from the school.
Please give a word to the many students, eSports fans, and gamers all over the world.
eSports is an exciting new field that not only explores a very old interest for many but also creates opportunities for those players to truly pursue a career in which they love. This was not possible before. eSports and the attention that it has drawn gives gamers, organizers, producers, and publishers, a unique opportunity to showcase their passion to the world on the big screen. Legitimacy is something many of the people in this industry sought from their friends, family, and coworkers for a very long time and the rise of eSports is finally allowing that to be possible.