Players compete at Ohayocon Jan. 10. Credit: Aaron Lien | Lantern Reporter

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of all NCAA tournaments, several collegiate esports leagues across the country are continuing without pause. 

For club-organized and university-sponsored teams alike, esports offers players a chance to compete from their homes, and various Ohio State teams have been affected differently because of the university shutdown.

“There are certain things that you take for granted practicing in person,” premier Overwatch player Lucas ‘resp4wn’ Lumbra said. “If you’re playing online as opposed to playing together in person, you’re going to have a harder time focusing on the match. You have more distractions around you.” 

A March 12 email sent by University President Michael V. Drake announced that Ohio State courses would move entirely online and students would be required to move out of residence halls between March 14 and 22. On April 3, the university announced all events through July 6 would be canceled.

Lumbra said players moving back and playing from their permanent residences has impacted logistics. In the past, every premier team practiced in the esports arena located in Lincoln Tower, with Lumbra’s Overwatch team spending upwards of nine hours a week practicing. 

Despite the changes, Lumbra said the team has been doing well. While he said communication still needs improvement, the team’s performance has bettered since March. It stands undefeated in the Ohio Spring 2020 Overwatch League hosted by National Collegiate Esports and is locked in for the playoffs.

“We’ve had enough time now to adapt to the online format and we’ve started to see improvements pretty quickly over the last couple weeks,” Lumbra said. “I feel that I’m playing better now than I have in a while, and I’m really looking forward to showing that in playoffs.”

Even after a March 11 announcement that NCE finals would no longer be played in person and a March 19 announcement that all NCE tournaments would switch to an informal league with no prize money, Lumbra remains motivated to win.

Lumbra said a winning season is good for the esports program, which started this past fall, and winning the Ohio tournament also means being back on top of Ohio’s Overwatch scene.

For the university-sponsored League of Legends team, coach Calvin “Darkpegasus” Chandler said not much has changed with online practice. 

“The only issues have been occasional internet problems preventing some players from making it to scrimmages or family obligations that require players to miss practice,” Chandler said. 

The team is heading into the playoffs for NCE’s League of Legends tournament next week. Chandler said the team remains motivated to win, especially against the Buckeye Gaming Collective’s club team, which is also in the tournament. 

However, for some newer, club-organized teams, COVID-19 cut their seasons short. 

The Buckeye Gaming Collective’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare team finished its season out of the playoffs. Team manager Kevin “Hewbris” Bryant said the changes caused by the pandemic set his team back more than it already was. While housing was not an issue, as most team members live off campus, Bryant said the transition to virtual classes had an impact. 

“Everyone has reprioritized,” Bryant said. “Everyone is home, but everyone seems just as busy with school and it’s a stressful time for anybody.”

This was the team’s first season competing, but Bryant said he remains hopeful for next season and how the team will perform post-pandemic.

“It’s hard, but I think we’re going to really come back next season and do a lot better,” Bryant said. “This is everybody’s first season. Everybody is a rookie. We literally can’t go anywhere but up.”