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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

eSports program coming to St. Clair College

The Windsor Star/Mary Caton

The newest competitive team at St. Clair College won’t need to book court time at the SportsPlex for tryouts or practice.

All the prep work for this particular Saints’ squad will happen in a computer lab when St. Clair becomes the first post-secondary institution in Canada to offer a competitive eSports team.

The college announced the launch of Saints Gaming this week along with $250,000 in funding which includes bursaries and scholarships.

Those basement gamers who make the competitive team will be eligible for the same $1,250 scholarship available to all varsity athletes participating in traditional sports such as basketball, volleyball and soccer.

Shaun Byrne, a local eSports consultant and CEO of eSports Gaming Events, will serve as the school’s program co-ordinator.

 

“Being the first in Canada to offer scholarships is definitely a bold precedent,” Byrne said.

Through his work hosting smaller events for the Information Technology Club (ITC) at the college, Byrne was caught in a growing wave of interest in eSports on campus.

“We were brought into conversations with administration and finally it got to the tipping point where they said it sounds like a good idea. The numbers have grown to the point where it’s impossible to ignore.”

Byrne said the most recent world championships for the League of Legends game drew 43 million views.

It’s estimated that the global eSports audience for 2016 was 226 million.

“Students love the idea of this at a competitive level,” said Jeff Rousseau, the student council president. “I’m excited we’re offering another extracurricular activity for them. This is a huge thing for St. Clair — no other school in Canada is doing this right now.”

The college is hosting a tournament at the SportsPlex June 10-11 to kick-start interest in the program.

Any Grade 12 student planning on attending St. Clair next fall will receive a $500 tuition bursary just for participating in the tournament.

Early bird registration is $25 per player. Those interested will be able to register online within a few days at www.saintsgaming.ca.

Byrne anticipates a minimum of 500 players to participate with the potential to reach 1,000 or more.

Dean Hayes, the college’s ITC president, likes the idea of the $500 bursary “to show parents it’s possible for your gaming to pay off in a positive manner.

“This is an opportunity for kids in the community to show their stuff,” he said.

The Saints’ eSports team will draw on players who specialize in PC and console games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Street Fighter V.

Byrne says they’ve already started scouting for potential players for the 30 to 40 spots available on the competitive team and inquiries have come from as far away as the Philippines.

The Saints will participate in a number of competitions including the Collegiate Star League where some 900 mainly campus club teams from across North America battle it out online.

“Basically 99 per cent of the league are student-organized club teams,” Byrne said. “We’ll be one of a handful of schools with actually collegiate backing. That really legitimizes the program and helps us with recruiting because other schools aren’t able to offer anything.”

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