This year, Lyon College developed a new Esports program, joining many other universities around America in competitive gaming. Popular interest in collegiate Esports has taken off only recently, especially in America. One of the reasons for such a delay was lack of medium to organize events between competing schools. Although Esports is still new on a collegiate scale, the concept of competitive gaming itself is over 30 years old.
One of the earliest instances of competitive gaming comes from the 1991 arcade game Street Fighter II, which can be found downstairs in the library for those interested in playing it. After this, organizations like QuakeCon and the Cyberathlete Professional League were formed to give rise to hyper-competitive games like WarCraft and Counterstrike. While it is popular in America and other places around the world, South Korea was one of the first countries to invest in Esports. After a massive infrastructure overhaul from a major economic recession in 1997, they recognized the value that competitive gaming to could hold in the future, as both a sport and as a source of global tourism, when their Ministry of Culture began the regulation and development of Esports.
The birth of StarCraft was one of the major turning points in Esport gaming. Conglomerates around the world, especially in South Korea, began recruiting players and creating professional competitive teams. Three major teams, SKT (South Korea Telecom), KT (Korea Telecom), and Samsung, inspired many other investors to start forming their own teams, arenas, and training facilities to groom players for this new field. At this point, prize pools had started to reach six- to seven-figure digits for games like StarCraft II. However, team-based gaming was still largely left to Counter Strike.
DOTA, a Warcraft III mod and one of the first MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas), became a hot topic for many gamers. But in 2009, Riot Games released the world's soon-to-be most successful Esports game, League of Legends. LoL was slow at first to catch on for its first season, with a prize pool of only $50,000, but by its second season, first place winners earned $1,000,000. Esports has since shifted its focus to various forms of team-based gaming, including LoL, Overwatch, or Rocket League. Each requires hours of practice, dedication, and cooperation.
Lyon’s Esports program currently has teams competing in League of Legends, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. The school purchased eight PC gaming rigs over the summer, hired Coach Austin Lonsert (a former pro MOBA player), and dedicated a room near the mailing room for the rising Esports team. The teams have already begun regularly-scheduled practices, and the season’s tournament dates have been assigned. The Hearthstone team has already won in its first competition, bringing Lyon College one step closer to being a major player in Collegiate Esports.