The smell of popcorn and the terse, programmed shouting of video game characters emanated from the Student Union Building (SUB)’s Great Hall on the evening of Friday, September 11. UFV club Electronic Sports (eSports) Valley was wrapping up SUS’s Welcome Week with a game night, a more low-key affair for a week that saw bouncy castles, cake, improv theatre, and a speech from UFV president Mark Evered.
Super Smash Bros. 4 was projected onto a big screen, and a round of Melee was being played on a separate TV in the corner. There was also a Magic: the Gathering table for good measure. There were maybe 20 people there — a decent turnout for any event put on by a UFV club.
But it’s perhaps on the tame side for eSports Valley. In November 2013, a LAN party — where gamers bring their laptops and play a shared game — brought 40 people with laptops into AfterMath. They blew a breaker when too many chargers were plugged into the outlets. Another time, they hosted a live streaming of a League of Legends tournament, which ran from midnight to around three in the morning. Sharma had expected maybe 30 or 40 people.
“About 130 people showed up,” he said. “That proved to me that there is an untapped demographic at UFV for this type of stuff.”
eSports Valley formed in 2013. Back then, the UFV club aimed to develop the skills of those who wanted to go on to competitive gaming — “You could call them nerd jocks,” explained Sharma — but as it grew in popularity, eSports Valley started catering to more casual gamers, hosting regular get-togethers like Super Smash Brothers nights. “It became more like a social community,” said Sharma.
While they’re hosting social events more often these days, eSports Valley still has a League of Legends team that plays in collegiate competitions. This summer, Sharma and Charles Scott, the League team’s “manager,” were invited to a summit in Los Angeles, along with delegations from 74 other universities across North America.
“It was eye-opening,” Sharma explains. “For the past year or so, I think we were on a downward trend in terms of enthusiasm. This rejuvenated the club, kicked us in the ass, and told us it was worth doing.”
eSports is on the lookout for students to join UFV’s unofficial League team in time for a tournament’s qualifying round in November. Sharma is also hoping to convince UFV IT to allow a LAN party in the Great Hall.
“I think they were first like, ‘Man, those punk kids, breaking breakers, using our internet,’ but they’ve seen that we’ve had consistent events, and they’re taking us seriously.”