Concordia’s Esports Association Might Be The Best Teams You Don’t Know
Despite Space Issues Last Year, Concordia’s Esports Association is Going Strong.
When you hear someone speak about Concordia having successful teams, a lot of things come to mind.
The Stingers’ basketball teams, hockey teams, and rugby teams, to name a few, have all had a lot of great moments and players in the past few years.
However, there is another team that has experienced success—although club is a more appropriate term for them: Concordia’s Esports Association.
Outgoing president Dimitri Kontogiannos chalks that up to a few different elements, most notably the growth of esports at the highschool and CEGEP level.
“You see more and more school having their own dedicated esports clubs, because there’s so many colleges and universities that have these high profile teams, even places with their own scholarships. You get people who come here on their first day and the first thing they ask is ‘Where’s the esports team?’”
Kontogiannos also says the association has been pivotal as an entry point to first-year students’ university lives.
“It’s a place where people can get to know people with the same interests. It’s pretty easy to be lonely and distant in your first year, so having people who like the same thing you do is great, especially when you might be new to the city or the country.’’
“I was the same way when I started in 2015, so we all have the same entry point, even the president.’’
New games come out every day and, almost as often, something new is at the forefront of popularity on social media, like the massively popular streaming service Twitch.
This year alone, games like Apex Legends, Dota Auto Chess (now Dota Underlords), and Teamfight Tactics have been released and have developed their own followings and even competitive scenes.
While it might be tempting for competitive players to latch onto and focus on whatever the new, hot game is, it’s important to keep focus on what’s popular and what you know.
Think of it as if an Olympic athlete changed sports every few months.
It’s with that mindset that League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game (or MOBA) has had strong staying power, both among it’s more casual members and as the cornerstone of their competitive efforts.
It’s important to know your role, but also to be versatile in it.
“We played against someone who was amazing at just one League of Legends champion, so we kept banning that champion [from usage] every game and he did nothing at all.”
Sports and esports have more in common than one may expect (or that each would like to admit).
Kontogiannos himself comes from a sports background, as he’s currently working for the Montreal Alouettes.
As president of the association, he’s been focusing his efforts on sponsorships and partnerships—like for their jerseys, with one having the gamertag (the online username) of the wearer.
Hearing Charles Morin (or Chas, his gamertag), their League of Legends coach and avowed sports non-enthusiast, talk about what kind of training and preparation his players go through, you’d almost forget he’s talking about a video game. First, there’s tryouts.
“We don’t just look for personal talent, there’s stuff like chemistry, who can fill what roles, and who can communicate, too. If you can’t talk, you can’t be effective,” says Morin.
Individual players from different backgrounds, coming together to become a team sounds like every sports movie cliche ever.
However, that’s what it’s like for a club when their version of a recruiting class is highly varied in terms of experience at high levels of play and in terms of styles of play.
Sometimes instead of players, it’s whole teams that come to join and are already formed beforehand.
That was the case for their League of Legends B team.
“They were five friends who said they wanted to play together, and they were really good. I can’t say that happens a lot, but it happens,’’ says Kontogiannos.
Once a team comes together, it’s time for practice, and lots of it.
“We play [scrimmages] against other college teams, we play online, and my role in that is to study the meta, which players on their team plays what, who on our team plays which way, it’s a whole lot of studying,’’ says Morin.
“I make them watch replays of games to show them what they do well, and what they do wrong.’’
“It’s a lot like watching film in hockey,’’ added Kontogiannos. “Actually, a lot of this is a lot like the advanced practices that high profile sports teams have now. And it shows, because the practice really helps, especially for people who might just be used to playing without taking that extra step of studying outside of a match.’’
Speaking of studying, they also have the same attitude towards academics that the varsity teams do.
“The last thing we want is for people to burn out of their studies to game,’’ says Kontogiannos.
“We want people who know how to balance school and the team and the rest too, because once those first midterms come, if you’ve been doing nothing but playing League, you won’t last long at Concordia.’’
“We don’t just look for personal talent, there’s stuff like chemistry, who can fill what roles, and who can communicate, too. If you can’t talk, you can’t be effective.”
— Charles Morin
Despite League’s massive popularity, Kontogiannos says they aren’t afraid to branch out into other games’ competitive scenes.
They already have a team for Overwatch, Blizzard’s popular 2016 first-person, team-based shooter, and have players who specialize in other team-based first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rainbow Six: Siege.
They’re also looking into getting players involved in the latest genre to take gaming by storm: battle royales.
Named after the controversial Japanese film, battle royales usually follow a similar formula: a group of players (often 100) are all put in a map where loot (armour, weapons, etc) is dispersed.
Over the course of the game, the map is made smaller and smaller, until the last player (or team, depending on the game mode) alive wins.
Gaming’s current juggernaut, Fortnite, is a battle royal, as is the previously mentioned Apex Legends.
Even traditional first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield, once the rulers of online multiplayer gaming, have added battle royal modes to their game, with nowhere near the success of Fortnite.
Real Space for a Virtual Medium
Last year was a good year for the club, with the start of their League of Legends intramural league being much more successful than expected.
“We were expecting a couple of teams, and we got eight. That’s thirty people, for a league that didn’t exist this time last year,” said Kontogiannos.
Yet a familiar burden to Montrealers impeded them significantly: construction.
Returning students will be familiar with the Hall building’s renovations last year.
The construction took away the auditorium they had used in previous years, which meant they now had to try and book space at the John Molson School of Business building, whose auditorium is busy almost every day of the year.
“We try to have our events on Fridays or weekends to make it easier for people, especially people who bring their own equipment. Getting access to space on those days, especially before breaks, it’s really tough,’’ said Kontogiannos.
The alternative is booking a classroom, which might not have the outlet or space necessary for five to 10 computers, wires, plug space, and all the people that come with it.
Esports don’t need a field, or a gym, but sometimes the logistics can be even harder to achieve than something like football or soccer.
“We don’t have the same monetary support as other schools we’re competing with, especially some American schools that have their own varsity programs,’’said Kontogiannos.
They don’t exactly have their own giant, luxurious space to get together and organize events, either.
Their clubroom looks more like a supply closet with a desk, complete with enough old electronics to make a Radio Shack manager blush.
The room, besides being cramped, also offers what can be best described as mediocre climate control.
“Once there’s more than four people in the room, it’s pretty much unliveable if it’s hot, and the heater doesn’t really work, so it’s not any better in winter,’’ said Kontogiannos.
It’s nothing like the room you’d imagine one of the teams in League’s collegiate division would have, especially when compared to other teams around North American campuses.
Space aside, one underrated part of esports that gets taken away by not having a dedicated space is human contact.
“Not having a room can make practicing a little tougher, just because you don’t get that human contact that can make teamwork so important. Putting a face to a voice and a gamertag, you wouldn’t think it’s that important, but it really helps build rapport,’’ says Morin.
Yet, they take their position and resources (or lack thereof) in stride.
“We play teams that have teams that are sponsored by their school, and have scholarships—they’re pretty much paid to play games, when you think about it. And we beat them. That always feels really good,” said Kontogiannos.
While it may be unlikely esports will supersede conventional sports at Concordia, it’s clear that esports aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, not if Kontogiannos, Morin, and the other members and team members from Concordia Esports have anything to say about it.