From left: Connor Black ’21 and Brian Uceta ’23 compete in the SLU Community Esports tournament. Photo by Paul-Hudson Irwin ’21.

Video Gaming at St. Lawrence

A new battleground in the world of collegiate sports

Lydia Dwyer ’20

Recently, new battlegrounds for school pride and competition at St. Lawrence have opened up by an emerging team of students. But the players are nowhere to be found out on the field or on the ice. It is the growing student interest in e-sports on campus that is creating a new competitive platform.

There has been some debate about the legitimacy of e-sports as an actual sport, with critics pointing to the lack of physical movement and athleticism in playing video games as disqualification. However, gamers such as Rose West ’20—a former member of The Hub, the on-campus theme house dedicated to gaming and electronic entertainment—say it is the practice, strategy, and time commitment of gaming that defines it as an emerging sport. 

For St. Lawrence gamers, this debate is inconsequential to the larger landscape of athletics as the e-sports industry has taken off exponentially, and the question of legitimacy is irrelevant. West says her perceived identity as a gamer doesn’t matter to her. “Gaming is part of who I am as a student and person—it’s an important hobby for me,” she says. “But I ultimately don’t care whether I’m called an e-athlete or not. It doesn’t really change anything. I enjoy competing either way.” 

Over the past decade, e-sports has grown into a $1 billion dollar industry and has developed an audience of nearly 500 million viewers worldwide. St. Lawrence, like many other campuses, has now joined in the game. The increasing popularity of gaming through online streaming platforms, like YouTube and Twitch, and multi-player games and virtual arenas have allowed for tournament-style competitions online. Individual gamers and teams can compete in these arenas with players from all over the world. Some of the larger, professional competitions include prize money. Annual events such as The International, a world championship tournament for the game Dota 2, had a prize pool in 2019 of more than $30 million. 

The Gaming Lab at St. Lawrence provides a space for all students to come together and participate in e-tournaments, and compete against other teams across the nation. The Gaming Lab, located in Bewkes 143 and supervised by faculty advisor Choong-Soo Lee, professor of computer science, is dedicated to both the research and recreation of gaming and provides a forum for students to share their interest in e-sports as well as access to the popular games of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Fortnite, and Overwatch. Students have begun to compete representing St. Lawrence in popular collegiate leagues like the IvyLoL (Ivy League of Legends) and the CSL (Collegiate Starleague), and have circulated surveys to garner interest in expanding the club membership across campus.

With this newfound exposure and a booming industry to propel the Gaming Lab forward, the members hope to continue to take steps toward establishing more e-sports opportunities at the University. For St. Lawrence gamers, it is another way to represent their school spirit.