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College launching varsity gaming team

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Troy Shantz

Lambton College is preparing to open an innovative new sports arena in September; one at which rain delays and hamstring pulls will be a thing of the past.

The eSports gaming arena will be one of the first of its kind at a Canadian college with 20 high-end gaming computers in the student lounge.

The arena be used for recreational use and eventually public bookings, but the immediate focus will be on creating a varsity eSports team trained under a coach the college plans to recruit, said Rob Kardas, Lambton’s vice president of student success.

“It became apparent this should be treated like any other varsity sport, and it will sit under our Lion’s umbrella. These will be student athletes and they will be treated as such with our code of conduct, our policies and our eligibility.”

The Lambton Lions eSports team will compete against other post-secondary teams popping up across North America in the Collegiate Starleague. The league hosts tournaments with more than $200,000 in scholarships and prizes up for grabs this season.

ESports are played largely online, although major tournaments are hosted in venues such as Madison Square Gardens and the Air Canada Centre. Consoles and special gaming chairs are arranged at centre court with matches shown overhead on the Jumbotron.

The Lambton team and its eSports Arena will specialize in PC games with a focus on multiplayer online battle arena, fantasy, role-playing, adventure, puzzle, real-time strategy and combat-style games.

Some of the most popular right now are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Defense of the Ancients 2 and League of Legends.

eSports has rapidly gone from a basement hobby to a professional sport. The audience for competitive gaming in 2015 exceeded 134 million worldwide, according to video-game research group SuperData.

That year’s League of Legends world championship streamed to 36 million people — far more than the audience that watched game six of the Stanley Cup finals.

Vancouver’s Kurtis Ling, 24, earned $1.6 million competing in eSport tournaments worldwide in 2015.

“There’s this sort of stereotype where you have the unemployed male playing video games all day in his parents’ basement,” he once said in an interview.

“That’s actually me, that’s who I am, except I’m employed in it.”

At presstime Lambton’s eSports team had already received more than a dozen applications from prospective eSports athletes.


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