Students compete in the Mental Health Game Night hosted by BGC in the Esports Arena in Lincoln Tower. | Courtesy of Ellie Earwood

The Buckeye Gaming Collective will be joining over 65 other university teams in the first Collegiate VALORANT Conference season starting Saturday. 

The BGC will be led by team captain Matt “Cameh” Chilinski, a third-year in the integrated major in mathematics and English. Currently, the prize pool for the tournament is $3,000.

“I think we’ll probably make it to semifinals,” Chilinski said. “It’s kind of hard to wager how good other colleges are right now, but I think we have a really good group of players and the potential to go really far.”

Chilinski described the game as a mishmash of other popular esport titles: Overwatch and Counter-Strike.

“You have to plant a bomb at a site, but you can also teleport across the map as a character or throw a smoke bomb as another character,” Chilinski said. “It’s a lot of variety and characters to master— more-so than just learning how to aim a weapon — so there’s a lot of depth to the game.”

Chilinski said that he has only played the game for a little over a month, but he has previous experience playing Counter-Strike for both the BGC and several semi-professional tournaments, even winning $5,000 at an in-person tournament in 2019. 

“In VALORANT there’s people who know the game better than I do which is really nice, it gives me something to strive to improve for,” Chilinski said.  

Now that he is playing VALORANT, Chilinski said the transition over to a new game has been relatively easy. He has already reached the top 1 percent in ranked players across North America, while one of his teammates is at the rank of Radiant, an exclusive title that less than 200 players at the top of North America’s standings can claim. 

Since the game’s release in June, there have already been several professional and collegiate tournaments, with Ohio State esports hosting their own intramural league over the summer. VALORANT developer Riot Games reported over three million players during the game’s beta testing, before the game was even released to the public.

 VALORANT is a team-based tactical shooter by Riot Games. Teams of 5 take turns attacking and defending sites with the goal of either planting or defusing an explosive “spike”. | Courtesy of Matt Chilinski.

“There is a certain craze around VALORANT right now that we’re definitely taking a look at and considering,” Kenneth Kresina, a third-year in astronomy and astrophysics and the BGC president, said. “I personally knew that it was also going to have some kind of a collegiate scene, and we definitely wanted to be a part of that.”

Kresina cited VALORANT’s current success in esports by how successfully Riot Games has handled their Ignition series. The series of tournaments featuring popular streamers, tournament organizers and professional esport organizations has helped the game stay in a consistent top 10 viewership on popular video game streaming service Twitch. 

“The playerbase so far is kind of in a transitional period where a lot of League players, Counterstrike players, even Overwatch players are switching over to it,” Chilinski said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the biggest esport in five years.”

The regular season will last five weeks from Sept. 20 to Oct. 24, with playoffs taking place from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20.

The BGC faces off against Michigan Technological University Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and against the University of Michigan at 3:30 p.m.