When you think of sports, you probably think of fields and courts, bleachers and scoreboards, and two teams going head-to-head in real-time, physical competition.
But at Columbia, there’s another way to play. A virtual way.
We sat down with Sophomore Audio Arts major Thomas Gorman, the ESports Representative of the Columbia Renegades, to learn more about this group of gamers and how they foster just as fiercely passionate, collaborative, and welcoming a spirit of sportsmanship as their fellow athletes.
Tell us a bit about the history of ESports and how it has evolved over the years.
Gorman: I believe it was formed sometime during the 2017-2018 academic year. There was obviously a huge interest in ESports at this school. This school attracts creative types, and there is a big gap for people who play video games competitively and recreationally, so we fill that gap. Even through COVID we saw record numbers of people joining our Discord server, and we have one of the biggest servers for a school organization here!
How frequently does the whole team meet? What does a typical meeting look like?
Gorman: We don’t necessarily have typical meetings like other sports do. We have around 40 rostered players for our many different teams. We have team bonding events we do with SAA, and to see all our players in person we come together around once a month for all rostered players. Our practices happen over Discord where each team will get together and play online. We also try to go to local ESports lounges to practice and game together or compete in their tournaments so that we can all see each other in that in-person setting.
How often do you compete in tournaments with other schools? Can interested students/faculty “watch” like they would other sports?
Gorman: This semester, we’re focusing more on making sure we can compete competitively; each team has to join at least one tournament or league to compete. We compete against local teams from schools such as DePaul and Roosevelt, but we also compete against teams farther away from places like New York or the UC schools in California. We also encourage scrims [i.e., scrimmages] to get our players to practice with each other.
We try to stream a lot of our matches, and including our upcoming Overwatch matches in about 2 weeks. Everyone who wants can watch on Twitch (@columbiarenegades), and you can find us on Instagram as well (@cccrenegadesESports). Our streaming links are in our bio.
You mentioned your upcoming Overwatch match. What other games do you play competitively? What are some members’ personal favorites?
Gorman: My personal favorite is Overwatch. I am the JV team captain, so I have to rep my game!
Competitively, our biggest teams are Overwatch and Valorant. Our League of Legends team is starting back up, which has been a big team in previous years and our JV team won their league last semester! We also have a Rocket League and Fighting Game Club and Trading Card Game Club.
We’ve also started a few new teams recently, such as Minecraft competitive games. It’s still a bit experimental but very fun for those who are in between competitive and casual gaming. We also have a Splatoon team starting as well as an Apex Legends team starting back up, which was a very popular request.
It sounds like you have a lot of different options when it comes to games and casual vs competitive gaming—a little something for everyone! Who would get the most out of joining ESports and how do students join?
Gorman: People who want to be on a competitive team and want to help a team advance. We want students who are communicative and who want to improve themselves and the team. People who want to plan outside events and who are invested in supporting a team—we just want friendly people which isn’t hard to find at Columbia!
If you don’t think you’re the right person to join, I would argue that if you are at all interested, you should join through our Discord server. Anyone is welcome to join the server and join a few games even if they aren’t a rostered player for the game. Every semester we have tryouts for our rostered positions, but there are a lot of different skill ranges per game in our club which we aren’t worried about. We just want to see a team community here.
There are people who play casually on our server, so you can join the team without worrying about being competitive. We really try to foster a community outside of the competitive side of the team.
To join, look on our Engage app (https://engage.colum.edu/ESports/home/) and it will take you through to our Discord. That’s the best way to test games and know when the tryouts are. Typically, tryouts are at the beginning of each semester, but if you’re interested in joining a team at any time, reach out to the captains and there may be room for you on the roster! We have some rules, but we’re pretty casual about making sure everyone has a good time.
It’s great to hear you speak so passionately and welcomingly about the group. What do you personally enjoy most about being part of the ESports team?
Gorman: I have always liked being in a leadership position, and it has been so satisfying to do something with an immediate impact. I think planning events and everyone having a great time and hoping that you can do it again is super exciting! Everyone in the club is so nice, they’re awesome. They all just want people to play games with, and they play in the Discord server outside of our practices. Our Valorant server in particular is very community driven.
Anything else you want students to know about the organization?
Gorman: A lot of people don’t know we have an ESports team! We want to not only become more competitive than last year, but also be able to foster our community in a way that we expand and can show up around campus. Our dream is to be able to have a physical space for all the people who want to participate. We want to have a space for people to come, no matter their circumstance, and be able to play games and have that place to be able to escape for a little bit.
Be sure to check out the ESports Engage page and Instagram for more information on the group and to join the team’s Discord, and look out for upcoming tournaments you can watch on their Twitch stream!