Esports Club continues to compete despite COVID-19 shutdowns

When COVID-19 shutdowns debilitated the United States in March, most sports, both professional and amateur, came to a halt. Months later, many Division II, III and even some Division I sports teams are not playing in intercollegiate competition. When Ithaca College made the decision to continue online instruction for Fall 2020, athletes in fall sports lost the opportunity to compete together on campus. Well, most sports anyway.

Ithaca College Esports Club has remained active since the campus shutdown in March. The club’s president, junior Ross Doane, said that it has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic, growing from 50 to 143 members currently.

“We’re one of the few club sports that can really continue as if nothing happened, which gives a lot of incentive to people to join our club,” Doane said. 

Doane said the increase in numbers is because of people wanting to be a part of a community. The club has built a community through Discord, a website that allows gaming groups and other clubs to play together online.

Esports is a form of competitive video gaming in which individuals and groups go head-to-head live. The esports club at the college offers opportunities to compete against other colleges in addition to casual, noncompetitive gaming. Some of the games the club plays include League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and casual party games.

Sophomore Em Reynolds says they joined the club because it allowed them to meet new people.

“I like video games, but none of my friends played video games, so I joined Esports Club,” Reynolds said. “I like to play in competitive tournaments, but I really just like to play for fun.”

Reynolds, who said that casual gamers make up most of the club’s members, likes the laid-back feel and opportunity to have fun with other people from the college.

“It’s just a really chill environment,” Reynolds said. “We do party games on the weekends, games like Jackbox and Among Us. It’s a good way to get to know some people, so a lot of people will do the party games and nothing else.”

Esports have risen in popularity over the past few years as sites like Twitch and YouTube have begun live broadcasting gaming competitions. In May and June, when virtually all sports were on hiatus, ESPN broadcast several live esports events. The esports industry has added 100 million viewers to its audience since 2018, growing to 495 million, according to Newzoo, a game market insight analysis group. The audience is expected to grow to 646 million in 2023 globally, according to Newzoo.

At the collegiate level, esports are rising to the varsity level at many institutions. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), which was created in 2016, is the sole organization for college-level varsity esports and has over 170 member schools and 5,000 athletes. <span style="font-weight:…

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