By Owen Russell
There’s a new team at Brooklyn College that is already making waves. You won’t find them on the Brooklyn College Athletics web page, but the Brooklyn College Esports team is up and running at full speed.
The Esports and Gaming Club became fully operational this semester after the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated a need for virtual athletics.
“It is a COVID proof sport,” the club’s president and founder Xander Raff told The Vanguard. For those who are unaware, Esports is competitive gaming. Teams compete in a wide range of video games, from anything like Super Smash Brothers to League of Legends. It is a newer sport, which seems to be all the rage on campus.
After starting with around 40 members, the club ballooned to 370 members currently on their Discord. As for the Esports club itself, there are two teams: a League of Legends and a Valorant team. There are 17 competitors in total, with eight on the League team and nine on the Valorant. Despite only being one semester old, both teams have exceeded expectations.
“We are competing at a Division I level,” Raff stressed.
This past week Brooklyn’s Valorant team competed in the National Esports Collegiate Conference’s Metropolitan Division semi-finals. Their opponents were the no.1 ranked Montclair St. CyberHawks, who were as intimidating as their name suggests. Earlier this season, they smashed the Bulldogs, winning in convincing fashion. Brooklyn had their work cut for them, but never backed down. The Bulldogs defeated the CyberHawks and punched their ticket to the finals on Dec. 5.
“We are fielding two nationally competitive teams,” Raff explained. “Brooklyn College has an insane natural talent pool.” If it weren’t for Brooklyn’s natural talent, the team wouldn’t be able to sustain itself, especially considering the college’s lack of support.
As of now, the Esports team is a club. It is not a team in the same sense that the basketball and soccer teams are a “team.” There are no official coaches, but Raff acts as coach for both teams and stands as the best player on the League of Legends. “With minimal support you can field a national caliber program,” Raff said. “That not only represents Brooklyn in a positive light but also is a huge draw for students.”
Enrollment numbers are down for Brooklyn College. On the flip side, colleges adopting Esports programs are seeing increases in their total enrollment. And according to Raff, budding Esports programs don’t need much.
As of press time, the team asks for 10 to 15 computers, a physical space on campus, and funding for proper coaching. The computers would allow all of the teams to compete at once, and the physical space would allow the team to compete and train together. As of now, they practice and compete from their homes. When it comes to coaching, Raff has been forced to take the reigns. Luckily for the school, Raff has experience as a League of Legends coach, but the program remains without a true Valorant coach. Raff has been offering his guidance, but he does not have much experience with the game. “It is like having a football coach come in and coach soccer,” Raff explained.
The Brooklyn College Esports and Gaming Club has had an excellent first semester. Earlier this fall they hosted a Super Smash Bros. tournament which saw over 100 people come out and take part, whether that be competing or just watching. Their two competitive teams have excelled despite lack of support, and they look to expand by the spring. The club will field teams for Smash Bros. and Rocket League among other games.