What is Esports?
Esports, or electronic sports, is playing organized, competitive video gaming and has become increasingly globally popular. Competitive gaming usually takes place through international tournaments, involving two or more individuals or teams, with commentary to audience members, both those present at the event and those watching from home (often on streaming services like Twitch). Some of the most popular games include League of Legends, Call of Duty, CS:GO, Dota, and Fortnite.
This competitive sport builds similar skills as more traditional team sports, with a strong focus on communication skills and connections. Esports allows for strangers or teammates to work toward a common goal; these connections have shown increases in sympathy and compassion.
Gaming is very accessible and can be done from anywhere, connecting people from different countries. Because of this accessibility, gaming can still take place and be a source of connection during COVID-19’s social distancing and quarantine times, and current events have led to more virtual competitions. This also allows for inclusivity and a community made up of many differences.
Butler University’s Esports Team
Butler University in Indianapolis recently dedicated a space on campus for esports in the spring of 2020 with plans to expand due to student popularity and the value in esports in relation to innovation within the Indianapolis community. Members of the team have shared insights into the future of esports. This may even include scholarships to Butler for incoming students to play on the esports team.
Henry Johnston, a senior at Butler University, is the captain and manager of the Rocket League team as well as the vice president of content and a manager for the esports club. He was one of the founders of this organization and has seen it grow from a small group of gamers to the biggest club sport on campus. It continues to grow as more leagues are added, and it is one of the only Butler sports to compete due to COVID-19.
Henry gives insights to the enthusiasm behind the players involved in esports and all the roles and opportunities that it involves. He discussed the community of esports: “We’re growing every single day with our influence, our reputation on campus, and what we’re doing. We are all in it together.”
Esports and International Friendships
Luke Renchik, a senior at Butler and president of the esports club, played on the same team as an international student, Kim, from South Korea for the 2019-2020 school year. They connected and formed a friendship because of their shared passion for gaming.
Luke described Kim as reserved, so it was a challenge to get to know him. However, when Luke shared more about his personal life during gaming, Kim followed. They got closer as friends, which then allowed the team to get closer, as well.
Luke organized a team dinner, and with the opening of Butler’s esports facility, interactions became more frequent and relationships formed more organically. Kim was the most knowledgeable on the team, and the other members looked to him for advice, which he happily shared and worked with other players.
Now, Kim has gone back to South Korea as COVID-19 heavily impacted his international study experience.
Kim and Luke remain friends and have played together on a streaming platform called Twitch and kept in contact. “Although we are separated by land, I still consider him a really good friend,” says Luke. Luke hopes to one day travel to Southeast Asia and would love to meet up with Kim.
Both Luke and Henry see esports as a great way to bring people together for a common goal and to make new friends with similar interests but diverse backgrounds. This uniquely international sport positively impacts players’ college experiences, friendships, and communication skills across cultural differences. Henry says, “Anyone can be involved. It does not matter who you are or where you come from. It just matters that you have the drive and passion to play.”