Lambton’s eSports teams are still learning the ropes

Some of Lambton College’s Varsity eSports athletes, from left, Forrest Boire, Zain Ismail, Robert Glysinski and Joel Graham. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Fitness regimes. Game tape reviews. Massage therapy.

The approach taken with Lambton College eSport competitors doesn’t differ much from that of traditional athletes, even if their playing field is a computer screen.

Launched last fall, the Varsity eSports teams faces off against colleges, universities and club teams around the world playing League of Legends, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

“It kind of runs a lot like a basketball team,” says Forrest Boire, 25, Lambton’s eSports student ambassador and captain of the Overwatch team.

“We went from having just the basics … now we’re actually forming strategies and having plays.”

Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter. Each player on the eight-position squad fulfills a specific role such as “healing” injured teammates, or carrying out assaults on the enemy, explained Boire.

“We all have something we’re good at, and we all try to slot into that,” he said. “It’s designed a lot like a sports team.”

Teammate Zain Ismail, 18, spends more than 20 hours a week running scenarios, watching pro matches and hitting the gym.

“You need the endurance to last the time periods,” he said. “While you’re not doing a lot of physical activity your brain is on full wire the whole time.”

The eSport teams have been accepted as equals by other Lambton Lions varsity squads, says Eric Brown, in the school’s IT department. Basketball team members tried out the gaming rigs recently, after which the eSports players joined them on the court.

Last fall Lambton’s Overwatch team competed in the Tespa Collegiate League and finished with a 5-5 record. Currently, it’s competing in the 500-team Overwatch Open North American Division.

In the first match this season they faced a team that had advanced far into last year’s playoffs. The results were nothing to brag about, Boire said.

“We learned a lot… it was not close.”

The final four teams advance to the contender series, a level of play that would be comparable in hockey to the Ontario Hockey League.

Above that is the pro-level Overwatch League, which has a $500,000 buy-in and millions of dollars in endorsements and sponsorships.

And mainstream sports are taking notice. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, for example, also owns an Overwatch team.

To learn more about Lambton’s eSports teams, visit www.lclions.ca/sports/esports.