VCU esports membership expands in virtual landscape

Students participate in an on-campus esports tournament on Nov. 8, 2019. Photo courtesy of Joshua West.

Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer

Freshman Kimberly Nguyen sees college as a time to do what you love. When she joined VCU Rec Sports’ esports club, she found an inclusive community of students who shared her love for video games and competing. 

COVID-19 has made socializing on campus nearly impossible. VCU’s esports club, however, is giving students a way to make new friends from the safety of their homes.

“There was really nothing like that in high school,” Nguyen said. “I know college is a place where you can really get into what you love because there are other people like you.”

Club president Joshua West said more than 150 new members joined this fall and around three new members join the club’s Discord, a group messaging software, every day. 

“We definitely have a lot more people this semester,” West said. “I imagine it’s because everyone is online.” 

The club has grown a lot since forming more than eight years ago. As esports has grown on campus, it allows for less competitive players to enjoy the sport. 

“It’s been really taking off,” West said. “It’s been allowing a lot of people who might not exactly be the best at the sport to compete for the school and represent the school.”

West said gamers of all skill levels are invited to join the club.

“It’s just a very casual environment where you can meet all different kinds of people,” West said. “I think the highlight of our group is how diverse it is.”

To gain new members, the club has been posting on Reddit and Facebook. Senior Dane Aggen said he became interested in esports because it gave him another way to compete. 

“I played a lot of sports growing up,” Aggen said. “It kind of just felt natural to play competitive games.” 

The club’s League of Legends division head, Lokesh Narayanan, said VCU should look into gaming as a way for students to socialize. Unlike most clubs this fall, esports still provides weekly opportunities to play with peers.

Although League of Legends is the primary game for the club, students can participate in over six different games including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant and Call of Duty.

The club’s competitive teams have been busy this fall playing against colleges across the country. The Rocket League team, VCU Havoc, competed in an Atlantic 10 esports tournament on Oct. 30, but they lost to University of Massachusetts in the quarterfinals. The club has two competitive League of Legends teams, which competed in the Collegiate Star League and other matches.

The esports club hosts an annual League of Legends tournament for any VCU student who wants to compete. West said it was difficult to organize because the club’s funding was cut for the fall due to COVID-19. 

The club is always seeking new members. West said students should consider joining whether they are looking for a competitive or casual gaming experience. 

“I think the beauty of the club is that anyone can join and find a place,” West said.

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