Ohio State's 'League of Legends' team. From left to right (alternating front and back rows), it's Stephen Vernyi, Kentaro Ogawa, Oliver Mills, Richard Flagg, Peter Ferguson, Cramer Tritt, Colin O'Brien, and Gerald Richland.  Credit: Robert Scarpinito / Lantern reporter

Ohio State’s ‘League of Legends’ team. From left to right (alternating front and back rows), it’s Stephen Vernyi, Kentaro Ogawa, Oliver Mills, Richard Flagg, Peter Ferguson, Cramer Tritt, Colin O’Brien, and Gerald Richland.
Credit: Robert Scarpinito / Lantern reporter

When people think of club sports, physically intensive activities like basketball, swimming and baseball typically come to mind, but one group on campus is trying to broaden that definition.

“League of Legends” is a free-to-play online game that pits two teams of five players against each other. According to figures released last year by Riot Games, the creator of “League of Legends,” more than 27 million people log into the game every day.

Each player chooses to control one of 123 champions who each have unique sets of abilities. Teams compete to destroy the enemy team’s Nexus, which is guarded by not only the opposing team, but also towers that must be destroyed along the way.

The E-Sports Initiative at Ohio State, which organizes video game tournaments, has formed its own team for “League of Legends,” and its members want to work toward making the game a club sport, though many outside the group wouldn’t consider it a sport at all.

The OSU team is composed of six players, including one substitute, who have a coach, a manager and multiple analysts who all help them improve their performance in the game.

Because of the nature of the game and its players, any number of strategies can be used at any given time, and situations can change just as quickly as they can in more physical sports like football.

“It  is not on the same physical level (as sports), but strategically, it is,” Colin O’Brien, team manager and second-year in information systems, said.

“The computer can do a lot of things the body can’t, so it breaks some of the bounds of knowing your body’s limits,” said Albert Maah, co-head of the “League of Legends” department of the E-Sports Initiative.

Robert Morris University, a smaller school in Illinois with less than 3,000 undergrads, was the first school to offer scholarships to “League” players and consider it an official varsity sport, and other schools, such as the University of Pikeville in Kentucky, have followed suit.

“If OSU joins, then all these little schools will have validation,” Maah said. “A lot of people know about OSU, so if they look up OSU and see (we) have ‘League of Legends’ as a club sport, that’s huge.”

Acting team coach Kentaro Ogawa, a third-year in food business management, said there’s a need for organizational structure in the group before attempting to make it a club sport to promote the success and longevity of the group.

“If we can get everything organized and it continues and somehow becomes a club sport, that would just be a change of labeling,” Ogawa said.

The OSU team is set to compete in multiple collegiate tournaments, the first one being a North American Collegiate Championship playoffs qualifier tournament hosted by the Texas e-Sports Association (TeSPA), which is set to run from Saturday to Feb. 22.

Ogawa said beyond practicing through scrimmages through other collegiate teams, the team will talk about deeper strategies and practice as a group leading up to the first game of the tournament this Saturday.

But it’s not all games.

“The problem is I have three midterms next week, too, so we have other things to do,” said Richard Flagg, a player and a third-year in electrical and computer engineering. “All of us probably play the game on our own in our free time anyway, so we can practice that way, too.”

The OSU team will also compete in another NACC playoffs qualifier tournament in March hosted by WellPlayed Productions, another e-Sports organization, if it doesn’t end up qualifying through the TeSPA tournament.

“We’re already feared in football, so we just have to position that into (these tournaments),” Richland said.