Society Showcase: The Esports Society!

By Robert Wheatley – Head of Editorial

The University of Hertfordshire boasts its impressive Athletic Union and many sports societies, but there’s only one society at our university that represents a relatively new era of sports, and that’s the Herts SU Esports Society.

Esports is much like any other sporting event: it draws huge crowds (more than 385 million will watch competitive gaming in 2017), it hands its winners incredible cash prizes (the total prize pool for a competitive Dota 2 International 2017 crossed phenomenal $20 million!) — the only difference is that the competition is entirely virtual, and played through video games.

I spoke to Howard and Stefan, the Esports Society’s secretary and treasurer, who gave me a ton of insight into their society along with Esports itself. The two students hope their society will be a big hit this year, for the Esports society will not only be sponsored by computer hardware company ASUS and Overclockers UK but will also hold many gaming events and tournaments that will award students awesome technological prizes.

What society do you run, and what’s it all about?

Howard: I’m the secretary, and Stefan’s the treasurer, and we’re the Esports Society. We support all gamers at the University of Hertfordshire…

We’re sort of for professional type games, so we support Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch and Rocket League… and whatever else people wanna play…

What is Esports?

Howard: There are specific games that are the ‘big ones’.

Stefan: Some games are classified as more competitive and are more international.

Howard: The ones we support are in big professional scenes; games with millions of players, upwards of tens of millions of pounds of prize-money, have more views per tournament that you’d similarly get in ice hockey — these are the kind of games we support.

These games are like Overwatch, Dota 2, League of Legends, Hearthstone; they have professional players, professional leagues and all earn very good money. The biggest tournament in gaming is The International by Valve, who make Dota 2 — the prize money this year was $20 million dollars.

We’re similar to the Athletic Union and their relationship to professional sport, but we don’t play any professional leagues as we’re not good enough, but there is a thing called The NUEL which is the e-Sports equivalent of BUCS. There are over a hundred universities that participate in NUEL, and we are the University of Hertfordshire’s entry into it.

How long have you been around for?

Howard: We’ve only been the eSports society since last year, and prior to that it was known as the League of Legends Society which just focused on that [game]. This will be our first big year as last year was very much a set-up year with us getting to know how we wanted to run things.

We’re sort of hitting it head on, and it’s very well known among the general student population but we’ve had quite a lot of members last year and we’re hoping to expand it to become one of the larger societies on campus. We’ve also got some fairly big sponsors this year; we’re being supported by ASUS… [and Overclockers UK].

In the past few years, there’s been an explosion in how many people participate in [eSports]. It used to be underground…. it was very secluded. Whereas now it’s blown up. We flew to Poland to watch Counter-Strike and we were there with 15,000 other people watching it.

Stefan: It really is worldwide.

Howard: It really is, it’s like football. It’s not so big in the UK, but outside of it, it’s treated like any other sport. We saw from the Polish how they treat the Polish teams, it’s basically like how they treat a football team — they have chants for each player; the atmosphere’s insane.

People don’t realise how it’s like any other [sport], it’s like playing 5-a-Side: the difference between that and a premiership is the difference between us and professionals and the same video game.

You can’t have an unhealthy lifestyle either because that affects your game. If you don’t eat properly your reaction-time slows down, so it kind of encourages healthiness but not at the same level as football. There are players that pertain to [the healthy lifestyle] like fREAKAZOiD who is ripped as hell… he’s enormous.

How much is it to join?

A fiver. It’s the minimum it could be, and I want to stress that as we obviously don’t have the same outgoings as other societies, based on the fact we just play video games, but there are expenses: we have promotional materials, services, we have a game server we pay for, and we may have to travel. That’s as low as we could make it.