(L-R) Tim Cho, Jacky Lee, Don Tran, Myles Dawson, Justin Pancho and Quinn MacDonald—all photos courtesy of Riot Games.

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An SFU eSports team's journey to becoming the best in North America

March 10, 2016
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By Tyler Gallop

Five days a week, four hours a day for two semesters.

That’s how much time SFU’s leading League of Legends (LoL) eSports team has devoted to maintaining its top-five rank against more than 1,600 North American post-secondary institutions in the 2015-16 uLoL Campus Series.

Known as eSports (electronic sports), competitive gaming is one of the world’s fastest growing competitions in sports and entertainment. League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, hosts the most active eSport’s scene globally.

SFU’s team, comprising of undergraduate students Quinn MacDonald (SIAT), Don Tran (economics), Jacky Lee (criminology), Justin Pancho (computing science), Myles Dawson (computing science) and team manager Tim Cho (kinesiology), has its sights set on just one goal: hoisting the uLoL championship trophy come April.

“Last year, we reached the top eight, but came away with nothing,” says Quinn Macdonald. “But this year we have a stronger team with talented new additions and we’re ready to go all the way.”

For post-secondary players, teams and clubs, the uLoL Campus Series is the NCAA of competitive LoL gaming.

Teams who climb the playoff ladder to place anywhere from 1st to 32nd receive scholarships of up to $30,000 for each player.

Since October, teams at colleges and universities across North America have competed to position themselves among the top 32, otherwise known as the ‘championship division.’

Alongside SFU, schools such as Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Manitoba, University of Toronto and cross-town rivals at UBC have gained a spot in this division.

Although post-secondary institutions from coast-to-coast account for the top 32, two of the best teams in the uLoL campus series are arguably right here in Vancouver:  SFU and UBC.

Video produced by Riot Games.

For west-coast Canadian gamers, producing the best University-based teams in North America is a proud accomplishment. Yet for SFU’s team, facing off against the reigning champion’s at UBC early on in the playoffs will be its biggest obstacle.

“Even though both teams are friends, as players there’s a lot of competition between us,” says Macdonald. “We’re hoping to be the ones to beat them, to be the best in Vancouver, the best in North America.”


The team

The team hangs out during a Riot Games photo shoot.

Each of the players came together for one reason—a love of video games.

Before finding their way on the team through SFU’s League of Legends club and collegiate gaming club, each of them individually dedicated countless hours developing their skills to an elite level.

The progression into competitive gaming was naturally the next step to take for most of the team.

 “I found I was just getting better and better at League of Legends, eventually playing alongside professional eSports players,” says MacDonald.

“It led to me asking if I could make anything out of this, if I could do this outside of just a pastime.”

Yet, the leap from pastime to team-based competition is a challenging process.

Melding the skills of five players into one cohesive force, then facing off against the best university student gamers in North America takes a great deal of dedication and resilience.

“Being on a team, just like with any sport, there are ups-and-downs. People make mistakes and we experience issues and disagreements within the team.”

“Yet, we’re all friends, and we all like each other. It’s been a productive, one-of-a-kind experience for each of us, and we’ve all gotten tremendously better together and have grown to become really close.”
 

Teams will begin playoff rounds during the conference semifinals March 15 and 16. Conference finals will take place March 22 and 23.

If the team moves forward, cheer them on during the live online stream of the championship round in Los Angeles on April 23 and 24.

To get involved in the gaming and eSports community at the university, check out SFU’s collegiate gaming club. Each semester, gamers can connect with one another through hosted viewing parties, tournaments and the regularly hosted “C-LAN Party.”