By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – The world of esports is a totally new frontier for Grace College. But it’s not one it doesn’t think it can win.
Esports is one of the fastest growing entities in scholastic game play, joining the likes of lacrosse and rugby as some of the trendy team sports units to pop up on campuses all over the country.
Grace College is no different, as the Lancers are anticipating its esports team to begin play this fall as a club sport with the intent to potentially become a full-time varsity sport in the school’s athletic lineup. Led by coach Andrew Palladino, the team is looking to get started in its maiden voyage, and recently got a boost before the year even started. Assumed it would start off campus at a location in Warsaw, the team was granted space at the Gordon Rec Center, along with some quality backing.
“There are several advantages to having our own esports facility on campus in the Gordon Health and Wellness Center,” stated Palladino. “First of all, our students will be able to practice on their own schedules since we have access to the space 24/7. This is also helpful for those students who don’t have vehicles because it is just a short walk from the dorms. In addition to this, the team will have the facility to themselves during practices and will not have to share the space with other video gamers, board gamers, or customers letting them focus on improving and working as a team without distractions.
“This new space also allows us to invite other schools for competitive tournaments or the community for engagement on our campus. Lastly, the new space will be equipped with faster gaming computers giving our team a competitive edge.”
Palladino noted Grace’s partnership with MSI, one of the leading esports hardware companies in the country, is a boon for the Lancers. MSI is providing, among several angles, jersey tops and Intel i7 10700F processors to power the gaming devices.
Esports isn’t just a trendy topic reserved for gamers and the underground. The League of Legends World Championships not only kept up, but surpassed the Super Bowl in total viewers at over 100 million worldwide in its competition played in November in South Korea. The North American version of that tournament series in April had over 600,000 concurrent viewers online.
Grace’s team, which will join the National Association of College Esports organization, will play college teams from across the country from all divisions. A varsity team is made up of five players, and Grace is offering up to 10 scholarships. The team is planning to play League of Legends to start. Palladino noted the strategy is the biggest part of esports tactics, and where the operation separates itself from the casual game player sitting at home.
Palladino, who spoke with Grace’s Drew Flamm on the college’s podcast earlier in the summer, noted esports mimics chess in many ways.
“You definitely review your game, you watch it back afterwards and see what you could have done individually and what you could do as a team,” Palladino shared via the podcast as to how game play, in this case, League of Legends, spreads out. “If there is an objective on the map that we need to take, we know it’s going to come up on the map at 15 minutes into the game. We need to make sure that our team is set and ready to be at that objective and have a plan for taking that certain objective so we can use that to create an advantage for the rest of the game.”
Grace has not issued an immediate schedule for game play. As with everything these days, the club has also not issued plans for potential spectators or how its action will be displayed online as of July 10.
“It’s been good to see the excitement for it,” stated Grace College athletic director Chad Briscoe. “There’s a lot of not knowing yet what it’s going to look like. We’ve never had a team, putting a coach in place, what will this all look like. We’re excited to have coach Palladino in place, he has a background in it, and we’re really excited for him to take the helm and run with it.”