Until quite recently, Erasmus eSports was a students’ sports club without its own practice grounds. However, starting from this week, the club’s approximately thirty members will be able to play together in the University Library every Monday evening, in order to practise for competitions and tournaments. The Internet is fast at the UL, unlike other places on campus, where gaming laptops and heavy bandwidth consumption may result in power outages.
And so about ten students (mostly male) sit in front of their laptops in a meeting room at the UL, completely immersed in what is on their screens. They are not studying, but rather trying the beat the ‘enemy base’ in the League of Legends video game.
Finding a new location was no easy task. It took the club an entire year. “The department responsible for on-campus room rental was afraid there would be power blackouts if we were to descend on a classroom with all of our laptops,” says the club’s treasurer, Economics student Davy Pande Iroot.
Eventually, UL Managing Director Matthijs van Otegem decided to allow the club to use a room at the UL. Says Van Otegem: “The UL is open until quite late, and it is a new building with good facilities, so why not?” The undecorated and unatmospheric room in the UL is not a spectacular venue, but that does not stop the club’s secretary, Business Information Management master student Alwin Knop, 22, from being happy with it.
Knop feels the room they have been granted will provide them with new opportunities. “Now that we can use this space, we have something to offer our members. At present we are mainly trying to attract the attention of casual gamers, students who are not quite as fanatical as the hardcore gamers but do often play, say, the FIFA football game.”
For now, their strategy does not really appear to be working. The club mainly consists of die-hards who play League of Legends, a video game in which teams of five players play other teams in a virtual world, every day.
EUR students take on other students from, say, Delft or Eindhoven Universities of Technology in nation-wide tournaments, in which thousands of euros are up for grabs. Furthermore, a university eSports league has been established, whose games will soon be able to be viewed on FOX Sports – proof that eSports are quite popular in the Netherlands.
But eSports are not exactly unknown abroad either. This is obvious from the fact that about half of the club’s members are international students. “The working language in gaming is English. For this reason, I think we will be able to attract even more international students in the future,” predicts Pande Iroot. Nevertheless, despite the global popularity of eSports, many people do not consider them real sports.
Of course, Knop does not agree with this assessment. He posits a remarkable idea: “It’s nearly impossible to explain. You have to play the games yourself to experience what it’s like. The level of focus you need to play a game at a competitive level is comparable to the focus you need to drive a Formula-1 car. The mental aspect is essential.”