With esports becoming a worldwide phenomenon, hundreds of colleges from around the world dove into collegiate esports. And from among the many, there is Harrisburg University(HU), a school located in Pennsylvania, US. HU has just one varsity sport: esports; and the school made it clear that they don't hold back when it comes to esports competitions.
Harrisburg University's esports team, HU Storm, provides its students with some of the best collegiate esports facilities and resources to promote rapid growth and success. HU Storm is the first collegiate team to ever employ former professional esports players as coaches - Xpecial for the LoL team and Joemeister for the OW team - to help carve a path for the students who are pursuing a career in esports.
On May 21st, Inven Global happened upon an opportunity to speak with HU Storm's League of Legends players at a local coffee shop when they paid a visit to Korea for bootcamp. The players were passionate, and they were more than eager to hurry and practice to improve as quickly as possible during their limited stay in Korea.
Please introduce yourselves to our readers!
Ryan "ShorterACE" Nget: I'm Ryan, and I'm the jungler for Harrisburg University Storm.
Jie "Tails" Zi-Xing: My name is Zing, my summoner name is Tails, and I'm the bot laner for HU Storm.
Brandyn "Hopeful" Hahn: I'm Brandyn "Hopeful," and I'm the mid laner for HU Storm.
Chad "History Teacher" Smeltz: I'm Chad Smeltz, also known as "History Teacher," and I'm the director of esports for Harrisburg University.
Why are you guys here in Korea?
ShorterACE: We're basically here to practice and to try and hit challenger in the Korean server. I'm also really looking forward to getting matched and playing with the Korean pro players, but I'm still in masters right now... but I'll get there soon.
Tails: For me, personally, I find the Korean server a lot more competitive than the NA server. The games I see in tournaments such as MSI - I don't get those exciting games in NA ranked. Over here in Korea, however, players try a lot harder to win, unlike NA where most players just play to have fun. I'm getting very good practice here.
History Teacher: This entire trip was optional. We have a total of 10 League players in HU, but not everyone had to come. The students that came to Korea even paid for their own flight to practice. We're also planning to visit LoL Park.
Hopeful: We're practicing about 12 hours each day. We're trying to play as much as we can while on this 1-month trip.
How long have you guys been a part of esports?
History Teacher: I've been a part of esports for four and a half years.
ShorterACE: I played League of Legends since beta, and I dove into esports when I was 16-years-old. I played in the NA challenger series.
Hopeful: I've been playing League for only about 3 years, and I became interested in its esports after about a year of play.
Tails: I've been playing at an amateur, academy level since 2013.
What made you join HU Storm?
ShorterACE: I was planning to quit League of Legends to go to school... but Harrisburg University gave me the option to do both.
Tails: I was also planning to quit League because I couldn't make LCS. In 2015, I talked with TSM for a potential position in the team, but it didn't work out. I didn't want to continue playing amateur, and I felt that I should quit. But when I heard about HU's esports program, I felt that it'd be a great opportunity to do school and continue to pursue a career in esports.
What are the benefits of being in a collegiate esports team?
Tails: It's very player-focused and organized. The school wants us to succeed in both our studies and esports. They try their best to make sure that we have resources available. Our coach right now is Xpecial, a former LCS support player. It's not easy to get someone like that.
Is there anything that you guys want to perhaps boast about in regards to HU's esports program?
History Teacher: Two things. One is that we've only been in program for less than a year, so to have everything that we have, and to be able to do things like this is just really great. The second one is that our university just won the national championship for Overwatch - we won it last week. We want to try and accomplish that for League of Legends next year.
Do you plan to combine your major with your experience in esports to pursue a future career in the esports scene?
Hopeful: I study interactive media and business.
ShorterACE: I study management and e-business. It depends on what opens up, but working in the esports scene is always a possibility for us.
History Teacher: We're going to be adding esports concentration in some of the programs where student interns can learn about business, management, and production - such as hosting tournaments and running a team - in esports. Here in Korea, there are people that work full time for these types of things, and we want that, too. Over in the US, there isn't a lot of people that know how to do those types of things.
Is there anything else that you guys are planning to do in Korea that's not related to esports?
ShorterACE: I'm trying to get concert tickets for my favorite K-pop group, ELRIS. Other than that, I want to try and eat a lot of different Korean food.
History Teacher: We're trying to experience things that are exclusive to Korea; things that we can't experience anywhere else. For example, we visited a Korean spa last night. There are a lot of cool things that you can do in Seoul.
Hopeful: Exploring is really nice, but I honestly just want to play solo queue and get better. That's the main reason I'm here.
History Teacher: I can't have them play 12 hours a day, 30 days in a row, so I occasionally make them come explore with me. (Laughs)
For the last question: what is your ultimate goal?
Hopeful: I want to play professionally.
Tails: I want to do something in esports that helps players, especially the young ones. I want to help create a clear path for them so that they can focus on the game but also take good care of themselves. There are some issues where some players focus on the game way too much and they make too many self-sacrifices.
ShorterACE: I always wanted to play in the LCS, especially because I was always so close to it.
History Teacher: I want to make esports more sustainable and stable in the US. When our students feel safe and secure, my goal is accomplished.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.