Club Conversations: Skidmore E-Sports: Skidmore E-Sports

Posted by Julia Leef

The Skidmore News sits down with the President of Skidmore E-Sports, Dan Petricca '15, to talk about one of the newest clubs on campus.

So, briefly, could you just tell me what E-Sports is?

E-Sports are competitive games that have a large following, enough that there are tournaments with cash prizes. There's a more finite definition of it, but to give a very simplified version that doesn't go into a lot of technical jargon, that's basically what they are. And at E-Sports club, we respect those games and practice them, play them; we have fun.

We have a few goals set in place for E-Sports. We want to eliminate toxicity within the gaming community on campus. I'm not saying that there is a toxic nature within the gaming community on campus, but we just want to try to slowly whittle away at the general level of toxicity. The gaming culture gets a bit of a bad rep because of games like Call of Duty and others of that variety that have bad communities, language-wise and just in general. We're trying to unify the gaming culture on campus to help it grow and become a more accepted part of daily society. People shouldn't be ashamed that they like playing games, but yet they are. And then they think that they grow out of it, but really they just miss it. Some people grow out of it, I admit that, but a lot of people shy away from it because they don't think it's socially acceptable anymore. Times have changed, and it's more "socially acceptable" than it has been, but it's still in a rough patch because in E-Sports there are professionals, professional gamers, and that's not considered an athlete by many people; it is.

Obviously, this is very new, you just started it, and I know you had a bit of trouble getting it started up as a club. Could you tell me a bit about that?

There's a general lack of knowledge as to what E-Sports are, because when we say E-Sports, people say, 'Oh, so you're a video game club?' Yes, we are, but also no, because we're trying to improve ourselves as players by getting better at certain games like League of Legends, Starcraft, DOTA 2 [Defense of the Ancients], Hearthstone, even Pokemon, because its competitive scene is growing very quickly. There's a very big lack of knowledge about it and I think that's the main reason we didn't get issued the first time.

Can you run through what you do during a typical meeting?

Well if there's anything to discuss we usually discuss it at the beginning or the end of the meeting, depending on people's personal schedules. We've had to discuss where we're going with the club, because we have our consistent members and we want to expand. So we talk about different events that we're going to be holding and different games we're going to explore further. We're going to be holding a 'noob night,' and I say that in the most loving way, because people can be new to games and they're 'noobs,' but that's not like, 'Ah, you noob, you're bad at this game and you should feel bad about it.' No, it's like, 'You're new to this game, let me teach you. Let me help you have more fun with this game.' And we're doing things like that.

In our typical meetings we discuss whether we're going to have a tournament or discuss any relevant news in the gaming society or E-Sports. Then we play different games within our E-Sports just to have fun, and we also practice as teams. So teams usually practice in a separate area of the room so that they're together. And then we have fun little games inside of the games. So instead of playing the competitive game where we have to do this, that, and the other, we just go into a game and have fun with it and play it differently.

Do you mean like customizable maps?

No. In League of Legends, which is my specialty, I don't know a lot about Starcraft or DOTA 2 but I'm learning because that's what this club wants to do. You go into a map and basically the normal rules are to destroy the enemy's nexus by accomplishing x, y and z. But instead of that, we ignore the main objective and we create rules within that map ourselves, rather than trying to defeat the enemy traditionally. Does that make sense?

Yeah, I think so. I'm not that familiar with League of Legends other than knowing it's some kind of MMO [Massively Multiplayer Online].

Actually, it's a MOBA.

What's a MOBA?

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

So it's a fighting MMO?

No. It's a real-time strategy game where you control one unit. That unit levels up to a cap of 18. You can get six items per character plus a trinket, and you have four skills that you level up according to your own choice. It's not like a traditional 2-D fighter; it's an over-the-top, epic, head-down game.

For students who have recently joined E-Sports and have not necessarily dabbled in these games before, I'm assuming for something like League of Legends you need to purchase some kind of membership?

Nope. League of Legends is completely free. There are some premiums you can pay for, like cosmetic changes, or you can unlock different champions with cash, but it is a free game to download and play. Of course, a lot of people do bend and break and spend real money on buying champions or skins so that they have not an upper hand but just more versatility with what they can do. Whereas, maybe players starting out only get access to the free champions per week.

So are all the games that you play in the club free for members? Do people have to buy anything?

No. Well, Starcraft 2 you have to buy. But most of the games are free; we're not exclusive in that regard. And if someone came with a problem we'd probably try and pull our club budgeting to create a public-type thing for players who want to try something out.

Are you looking do to anything outside of simply meeting and playing games, like participating in tournaments?

Yes. We just recently had a movie night on a documentary about professional players and their struggles. The movie focuses on pro-players before E-Sports was big. And E-Sports have always kind of been there but they've recently skyrocketed in the past five years. It was really nice. We mainly had the main group of club members come, which is about 15 or 20 people, a large number, but we all got closer from just watching the movie, and afterwards we played a few games and it was fun.

We're also planning on hosting events in the Spa whenever the larger tournaments are occurring--not necessarily tournaments that we're hosting, but when the world happens for League of Legends and when big tournaments for DOTA and Starcraft happen. So we're going to try and rent out the Spa so we can put it on the projector and show people that we're not a bunch of recluses quietly playing our little games; we actually do stuff. Of course we're going to be cheering on our teams like crazy people, and it should be fun.

We also have a few other plans in motion. We're doing noob night where we're going to try and actively bring in members of the Skidmore community who are even the slightest bit interested in understanding what League of Legends, Starcraft, DOTA and Hearthstone is. We'll play Pokemon too, because we do have a competitive Pokemon scene. The Pokemon fan base is pretty big, so we just need to get them to come. We're trying to accomplish little things to make us known, because I feel that a lot of people know that we're a club, but their mentality is, 'Why can't I just play the game from my room? It's all the same.' So we're going to give them more incentive with being active in the community, and having free food.

You're graduating next year. Where do you hope to leave the club?

I want the club to have a very strong base, I want it to be a community. I want members to be able to accomplish different problems and get what they want, basically. I really hope the club has a larger budget when I leave so that they can travel to different tournaments to watch or participate under the school. We have to represent Skidmore as a gaming community, because we have a really big gaming culture here but no one wants to talk about it because, I don't know why, I think they're just afraid. So by the time I leave, I hope that the club has enough money to send people out, to hold enough 'field trips' that players can travel and watch their favorite teams compete. And also hold tournaments where players can feel rewarded if they win; they get actual prizes rather than just 'the glory and the fame.'

Do you ever communicate with other colleges who have similar organizations?

I've been in contact with RPI once. I haven't gotten in contact with a lot of other ones just because I've been trying to set this up and it's stressful and chaotic. But there is a collegiate program for League of Legends where other colleges compete against each other.

You touched on this a bit already but I'll say it anyway. The misconceptions people have about this club I think boil down to the misconceptions about the video game culture in general. Do people ever come up to you and ask you if they have to know a lot about video games to do this?

People have asked me, 'Oh is it just video games? Do you guys play this game?' and people I think have the misconception that we just focus on the games I talked about in this interview. Even though it is E-Sports we welcome all forms of gaming. When we started this club we weren't sure that Pokemon was going to be a part of it. I had no idea that the competitive scene would blow up this much. And people can even bring their own fan-favorite game that we've never heard about, and more than enough of us would be willing to try it out and play it with them. They would teach and we would learn. I don't know if it would become a regular part of the club but we welcome all gaming. We focus on the competitive ones just because that's what we want. If someone wanted something else we'd welcome them with open arms and try whatever it is they want.

So if I wanted to play Wii-Sports, for example?

You could, but it's a console game, and we mainly focus on PC-gaming. That being said, we will always focus on our competitive sports first, but we do have nights when it's open game night. So that's more what I'm referring to when it's like, you want to play Wii-Sports. Okay, bring a system and some controllers and we'll play it.

When are your meeting times?

We meet Fridays from five to seven, most weeks. Sometimes a lot of us are busy and we decide to cancel just because you need people to actually play these games and have fun. So if only two or three people can show up, which has not happened yet, we have a consistent 15-member show rate and I'm proud of that. If only three members can come I would call it a cancel. It's like canceling sports practice; if only a fifth of the team can show up because everyone's sick or it's finals week, then it's not worth having practice.

And where would students find out about that or any other updates or information?

We have a Facebook group and an email list. The Facebook group is public: Skidmore E-Sports. We try and stay consistent with the postings. The email is a little less reliable just because we've had trouble with our list and we're going to have to remake it at this point. But generally we use the Facebook group, word of mouth, finding out through the game, things like that.

Is there anything that we didn't talk about that you want to say?

One of our long-term goals for next year is to get a bigger budget so we can take a group of students to PAX [The Penny Arcade Expo]. It's a three-day event where a bunch of game developers come and talk about and showcase their games. There are little mini-tournaments with League of Legends and DOTA 2. It showcases E-Sports and traditional gaming, and that's one of the things that we're trying to cover with our club. As much as we want to focus on E-Sports, we do not want to leave traditional gaming behind because we can learn a lot from it.

One of the things we're trying to work towards is getting a stable platform for players who don't have a laptop with the game downloaded, or something like that, to be able to play the game. A lot of people have desktops in the gaming world. If that means being able to use the computer lab and have games on that, or whatever that is, we haven't talked to them yet, but it's something we're going to discuss in the future. It's not something that we're going to demand because that is not something for us to demand, but we're trying to make it more inclusive rather than excluding people because they can't bring their fifty-pound desktop with them to club every Friday. 

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