With traditional sports and competition hanging in the balance, the Ohio State esports community is preparing for a season amidst COVID-19 concerns.
The esports program turned its attention to the summer and next school year at its first Ask Me Anything session June 25, where it touched on upcoming premier team tryouts, successes from last season and potential issues regarding COVID-19.
“Every department at Ohio State has about a thousand contingency plans on how to proceed with how the pandemic plays out,” Brandon Smith, esports director and project lead, said. “If anything, esports allows us to be more flexible due to the nature of being mostly online.”
With esports still being a relatively new concept to the university, Smith said the staff will continue to work hard on establishing itself as a premier Ohio State program. How the program will differ in the fall due to COVID-19 restrictions is currently undetermined, Smith said.
One of the things the program will be working on over the summer is better planning for their leagues, Smith said. More timing will allow for players to get jerseys and team jackets in the fall, along with giving the university time to arrange for players to be able to appear in livestreams.
“With the amount of tournaments popping up for us to compete in during spring, we sometimes had as little as 48 hours to sign up,” Smith said. “That led us to being unable to appear on stream because Ohio State is not used to moving that quickly.”
In terms of success in the spring season, Ohio State’s premier teams were able to compete at a high level, while also claiming some hardware.
“We won one of the leagues that we participated in this spring,” Matt Speidel, esports program coordinator, said. “We have a trophy coming in the mail for the Rocket League team, so expect that to be displayed in the esports arena whenever it opens back up.”
The other two premier teams made it to the playoffs of their respective National Collegiate Esports Ohio leagues, with the Overwatch team making it to the semifinals and losing to Ohio Northern University.
Also on the agenda was discussing summer tryouts for the premier teams. Spiedel said the last day to sign up is July 31, and tryouts are open to all students attending Ohio State in good academic standing.
Players of all skill levels are welcome to apply, with open tryouts taking place Aug. 7-9 and Aug. 28-30. Spiedel said only one open tryout is necessary to attend, and players will be interviewed individually after their tryout and can be eligible to attend closed tryouts later in September.
“The interviews are to discuss players’ goals if they make the team and let them know their expectations as a premier player,” Spiedel said.
Spiedel also said the two separate dates for open tryouts will allow students to choose the date most convenient to them, with factors such as home internet versus university internet speeds and summer plans in mind.
During the final portion of the session, Smith was asked about the possibility of Valorant, the recently released 5v5 tactical shooter by Riot Games, being added to the list of esports supported by the university. Currently, the university has three sponsored esports: League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League.
“We have gotten a lot of requests lately about Valorant,” Smith said. “Whether or not we can support it depends on what Riot decides to do for collegiate.”
Smith said the current popularity of Valorant and turnout from the university’s summer Valorant intramural league is making the program aware of the game’s potential as a premier esport. Smith also said there will not be a Valorant team for this fall semester, but fall 2021 or even a mid-year addition during spring 2021 can be an option.
The next session will be held Saturday from 2-3 p.m. for those looking to learn more about the program and have questions about the program answered. All incoming and current undergraduate, graduate and professional students are encouraged to register online at esports.osu.edu.