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DSU joins the competitive world of collegiate eSports

May 6, 2015

Historically, collegiate sports have been integral part of the college experience, dating back to at least a century for many universities around the state and the region. One of the first sports teams to ever play at Dakota State University was in 1902 with the women’s basketball team defeating Brookings College in their very first game. Fast forward over a 100 years, and now DSU is represented by ten collegiate sports teams, from cross country to basketball. And now, DSU fans can cheer on another collegiate team, this time in the fast growing area of eSports.

This past fall, DSU joined the Collegiate STAR League which covers three different eSports games, one of which is the ever-popular League of Legends. This global phenomena of a game is played by almost 27 million people per day, 67 million people every month, according to Forbes. This makes League of Legends, or LoL as it’s known to its players, one of the most played games in the world. And the best part, it’s free to play. Although there are stylistic upgrades a player can do that cost anywhere from $5 to $20, they do not affect game play. A player cannot purchase anything to make them more competitive, it must be earned through hours of practice and battles.

E-sports teams, a team like and unlike any other

Like with any collegiate team, the players on DSU’s League of Legends team are held to some pretty high standards. They must try out for the team, with only 18 spots on two teams available including substitutes. There are certain types of positions the players try out for, like marksman, support or jungler. There is a coach that helps the team review game tape of their upcoming opponents and goes through the team’s own game footage to see what can be made better during the next match. Team members must also be able to prove their enrollment to the Collegiate STAR League along with maintaining good academic standing.

During the fall season, the DSU teams played other universities in their region and division, which have included Indiana University – Purdue, Jefferson College, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, North Dakota State University (NDSU), Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Kansas, Kansas State and the only other South Dakota university with a collegiate team, South Dakota School of Mines (SDSM&T). The teams are ranked and win/loss ratios are kept track of. The DSU team has secured wins against Jefferson College, NDSU, Western Michigan University, University of Kansas, Kansas State and SDSM&T. Teams can play in tournaments around the region as well, bolstering their skills and competitiveness.

While eSports teams share many traits to any other collegiate sports team, there are a few differences that make eSports unique. While there is a faculty advisor, coaches can actually be students themselves. And more interestingly, coaches cannot coach during the games. Tucker Ramhorst, a junior computer game design major, is a coach for one of the DSU teams.

“I’m only allowed to interact with the team 15 minutes before a match and a minute in between each match which is played best two out of three. In any given tournament setting, a coach has a minimal role during a game, but a big role up until the game is played,” said Ramhorst.

Another fascinating aspect of collegiate eSports is the fact that no specific facility is needed for the players. There is no gym, no work out facility, just a computer for each player and a room with a good hardwired network connection. There is also no men’s team or women’s team, eSports have the unique ability to include all genders on one team.

A sport that transcends

DSU students, faculty and staff are excited to see an eSports team being recognized as a collegiate sport on-campus. Ramhorst stated that students have expressed a significant interest in trying out for the teams and that number is likely to continue to grow as ESports continues to become a bigger industry.

“ESports are played by a huge part of our student body across all demographics. It transcends many different majors and backgrounds, which is neat,” said Ramhorst.

This isn’t just a trend on college campuses, the popularity of eSports is evident worldwide. According to ESPN, a professional tournament for League of Legends in South Korea sold out an entire World Cup stadium in October and another team-strategy game, DOTA 2, featured a $10.9 million prize pool for its professional level competition. Just for comparison, DOTA 2 prize pool is a higher figure than the 2014 PGA Championship purse.

Every Saturday, DSU’s LoL team meets in East Hall to go over game tape of their next challenger. Seeking out the rankings of their opponents players, finding their weak spots and learning how to eventually play in that packed stadium in South Korea.