Leveling Up Esports
League of Legends, Valorant, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros Ultimate. These online, multi-player games have long offered a way to unwind and bond with friends, and their popularity is only growing. In fact, according to a recent report by Inside Intelligence, there will be nearly 178 million monthly gamers in the US this year (read: about half the US population). But these games are more than just a casual hobby at Pace—they’ve become the backbone of our new Esports Program. And the Pace gamers (nearly 250 strong) are in it to win it.
Late last year, Pace announced the launch of the official Esports program as its 15th varsity sport (alongside the more traditional football, basketball, and field hockey teams), but Pace’s Esports community has been thriving since as early as 2015. Julia Cardillo ’22 joined the club in 2019 when it was run by Isil Ates ’19, ‘21. “Back then, it was a one woman show. She had a lot going for us. We would play 5 versus 5 in League of Legends, she would give out free prizes from companies like Riot Games, and she even had a partnership with G-Fuel Energy Drinks.” Some students gathered to practice for competitive play, but most were there for the sense of community.
“It’s taken overwhelming diligence and support from everybody, and I think that’s something that’s really unique about Pace.”
Cardillo is now the Vice President of the club, and one of her closest friends, Mahir Kamal ’21, is the coach for the League of Legends teams. They have been in the club since they were first-year students and are thrilled that the club is now an officially recognized varsity sport.
“Now that we have the University’s support, we can get stuff that makes the players feel like they’re actually competing - like jerseys and in person practice spaces,” says Kamal. “Just having the college back this program, it makes me and the players feel more involved and ready to try our hardest in these tournaments.”
Jesse Bodony is the newly appointed Director of the program, and his enthusiasm matches that of the student players. According to him, this new program is especially exciting because of the level of support from Pace. “It’s amazing, the energy and the drive that it’s taken for the program from conception—starting with Mark Brown from athletics four years ago, to Sue Maxam, Jonathan Hill, PhD, and other powerful voices along the way—to get it to where it now, live and engaging students,” he says. “It’s taken overwhelming diligence and support from everybody, and I think that’s something that’s really unique about Pace.”
While online gaming may seem like just a fun pastime, Pace’s Esports program is actually creating opportunities for students to compete, enrich their academic experience, and explore vocational pathways in the growing gaming industry.
“Watch us. In six months, we’re going to be breaking records.”
Cardillo, Kamal, and Bodony all expressed their happiness at yet another student-driven program that helps students come together in an increasingly digital world. Bodony says, “We want students to connect—whether you’re a competitive gamer that wants to join one of the teams, or a casual gamer that just wants to chill and find people to play with.” Cardillo lights up as she recounts casual gaming nights and the thrill of seeing club members become friends. “One of my favorite things is seeing people who didn’t know each other at all… and suddenly I see them hanging out on campus.”
But these teams aren’t here just to play. Kamal is convinced this new level of support and access to better resources will empower the teams to make waves in the industry. “Watch us. In six months, we’re going to be breaking records.”
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Johnni Medina