The Canadian Collegiate eSports League will host its inaugural event on May 29. (Photo courtesy of CCEL/ Twitter)

The Canadian Collegiate eSports League will host its inaugural event on May 29. (Photo courtesy of CCEL/ Twitter)

University of Victoria to compete in collegiate eSports league’s inaugural event

UVic’s intramural coordinator Joni Richardson helped create the league

The University of Victoria is one of 13 universities from across the country competing in the Canadian Collegiate eSports League’s inaugural event on May 29.

The Vikes eSports team and the CCEL are somewhat of a product of the pandemic. After COVID-19 shuttered in-person competition last spring, UVic’s intramural coordinator, Joni Richardson, had to get creative to keep the Vikes community engaged.

That led her to learn everything she could about online gaming. And thus, the student-led Vikes eSports program was born, with the goal of building a community for gamers across campus and beyond. eSports is short for electronic sports and pits competitors against each other in an array of different video games.

Students love traditional sports and the in-person connection they foster, so eSports was a way to keep that going amid the pandemic, Richardson said in a news release.

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Since she was new to eSports, Richardson created an advisory group made up of UVic students tasked to come up with a three-year plan for the program. “From there, we discussed the need for an intercollegiate league within Canada, a way to play other students from other institution,” she said.

With most existing leagues based in the U.S., the UVic group faced multiple roadblocks due to data privacy laws. Richardson collaborated with other traditional sport programmers from across the country and the eSports platform company, Harena, to create a made-in-Canada league. Harena announced the launch of the Canadian Collegiate eSports League in March.

The league aims to nationalize eSports adoption among Canadian universities by creating a unified body to organize, manage and lead collegiate eSports.

Richardson said eSports was always on their radar, but the pandemic provided the need to explore new programs and the opportunity to do the work.

The continued growth of eSports as it has moved from niche to mainstream in recent years has not been lost on UVic.

“We’ve gained 300 new-to-us students who would not normally use any of our services,” Richardson said. “eSports is an opportunity to share the Vikes values with more students on and off campus and a way for us to connect and engage these athletes in a different way.”

The Vikes eSports program hopes to eventually have teams compete in tournaments across Canada and offer scholarships to players.

The May 29 event is a Rocket League tournament, with players competing in vehicular soccer on their screens.

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