For the Elon University eSports team, setting up matches for its video games has been a hassle since its inception in 2012.
“We need a place to play, so right now we rent out [McEwen 207] for practices and games,” said Elon eSports Vice President Tyler LaVecchia, a sophomore. “But the computers here never save anything, so we always have to reinstall the games we compete in, which can take hours.”
That all changed Tuesday with the arrival of five Lenovo Y40 laptops, which according to Elon eSports President Zach Wellman, are gaming-quality PCs the team can use at any time. The laptops were financed via an SGA special allocation of $5,000, marking the organization’s first step towards recognition on campus.
“It’s absolutely a huge move for us,” said Wellman, a senior. “I was ecstatic when I heard we had gotten the funding. Now we can travel to major tournaments or play somewhere without having to rent a space with computers.”
LaVecchia called SGA allocation a “stepping stone” toward legitimacy for Elon eSports, even though the allocation was much less than its original proposal in the spring.
Help from SGA
According to SGA Executive treasurer Leo Moran, the eSports team wanted 12 PCs worth $12,000, but that type of funding wasn’t realistic. After working with the SGA finance committee, the team presented its proposal to the SGA senate for a $5,000 allocation on Sept. 24. It passed.
“[Elon eSports] told SGA that basically they wanted to be more competitive with other schools in video games,” said Moran, a senior. “A lot of other eSports teams get funded by their schools for computers and other equipment, which they don’t have.”
The team originally wanted desktop PCs, but lack of infrastructure and storage space in the organization didn’t make that feasible, according to Wellman.
“We’re looking to get four solid years out of these computers,” he said. “Until we get an actual space to play in, we’ll be using these as our main gaming PCs.”
The computers will be stored at the Moseley Center and available to check out for all students, faculty and staff, since the university technically owns them. Wellman said the eSports team has top priority for checking the computers out, since they are designated to the organization.
Growth of eSports
Outside of Elon, the eSports scene has been expanding outside of its roots in South Korea, Japan and China since the introduction of competition-focused and teamwork-oriented video games like League of Legends and Dota 2. One professional eSports tournament, The International eSports 2015, had a prize pool of nearly $18.5 million, according to esportsearnings.com.
Colleges have recently been getting in on the action, with Robert Morris University and the University of Pikeville offering athletic scholarships for League of Legends.
North Carolina schools are no strangers to the eSports scene. Duke University and North Carlona State University have their own teams in the Collegiate Star League, a collegiate gaming organization that hosts leagues and tournaments, along with Elon.
According to Wellman, eSports funding is difficult for smaller schools like Elon without the sheer numbers that larger, public universities have. The new computers are a small step towards increasing their competitiveness with these bigger rivals, one reason being they are on Windows operating systems, not Mac OS X, which have been the only computer types available in the spaces the team has been able to rent.
“There’s a big difference between playing League of Legends on Mac versus a Windows computer,” LaVecchia said. “Windows handles these games better. It’s also really difficult to use the Mac mouses here, it’ll be much easier with a standard mouse.”
The timing is beneficial for the team, as registrations have finished for their A and B teams in League of Legends and Dota 2. Practices have begun to prepare the team for the upcoming Collegiate Star League season. Although the new computers won’t cover the entirety of the roughly 75 members in Elon eSports, it’s five more gaming-focused computers than the organization used to have.