Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson Esports offers community, competition, and creative practice

Members+of+Emersons+Esports+club+during+their+game+night+in+the+Little+Building+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+2.+
Annie Zhou
Members of Emerson’s Esports club during their game night in the Little Building on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Junior visual and media arts major Bryson Beck was hesitant to get involved with Emerson Esports when he was first recruited to join one of the organization’s competitive gaming teams his freshman year.

His reluctance came from his previous experience with competitive gaming: When he was in middle and high school, Beck competed semi-professionally in Rocket League, a vehicular soccer video game. 

As a “young guy coming onto the scene,” Beck said his experience was rife with toxicity: “I didn’t like the people I was playing with. I didn’t like the people I was playing against,” he said. So, he dropped out of competition.

When he joined the Emerson Esports competitive Rocket League team years later, he found the esports scene at Emerson to be a “refreshing change of pace,” meeting supportive, passionate teammates who made his experience enjoyable while competitive, he said. Now, those teammates are what keep him involved in competitive gaming.

“It’s about the people for me,” Beck said. “[I] didn’t have much of a reason to come back [to esports], but the people here are great, so I stick around for that.”

Beck now serves as the public relations manager for Emerson Esports, in addition to his role as a member of the competitive Rocket League team. Beyond Rocket League, Emerson Esports also has teams for games like Valorant, Overwatch, Splatoon, Omega Strikers, and Super Smash Brothers, with both varsity and JV levels. 

Most of the varsity teams are led by paid coaches, and each team also has a captain and a coordinator.

“Our comp teams are very close with each other—even across a varsity level and a JV level, they’ll usually play games together,” Beck said.

The teams compete against other collegiate groups in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) Starleague for two seasons each year—one in the fall semester and one in the spring. While the fall esports season is currently coming to a close, with Emerson’s varsity Valorant team (the Emerson College Vandals) competing in their playoff finals this week, tryouts for the upcoming season will be held at the start of the spring semester.

Beck, who also plays on the Emerson men’s volleyball team and participates in frisbee and cheer, said he wouldn’t equate esports to a “typical sport,” as it is not as physically demanding. Still, he said, esports are more mentally taxing than many people realize, with a workload that contends with that of other sports, albeit in a different way.

“The misconception that being an esports player is just sitting around playing video games is a very misinformed opinion,” Beck said. “It’s lots of hours of practice, which usually means you’re hardly playing the game—you’re sitting there doing little drills the entire time.”

Aside from the competitive teams, which convene virtually for practices twice a week, non-competitive members of the esports organization can also find ways to participate regularly. 

In addition to staying up-to-date through the organization’s Discord server and Instagram account, casual gamers can participate in monthly game nights, which typically take place in the Lion’s Den. Game nights often feature Nintendo Switch games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers on a large projector screen, as well as other small game stations throughout the room.

“You can grab snacks [and] just talk with people,” Beck said. “It’s just a nice little community gathering. It’s not hyper-focused on the games. There’s board games going on as well, so it’s not just for video game players. It’s for anyone to just sit down and play a game with their friends or just chat.”

For business of creative enterprises major and Emerson Esports co-president Catherine Hebert, game nights are one of her favorite parts of the org. As a former musical theater major, she said she enjoys creating experiences for others, which is why facilitating such events is important to her.

“That feeling is all I want in the world—for people to walk away being like, ‘I had so much fun tonight,’” Hebert said. “That was the driving factor for me to take more of these leadership positions, so that I could make people feel happy at the end of the day.”

As she quickly climbed the ranks of esports leadership once she became involved her freshman year, Hebert said it didn’t take long for her to realize the importance of the community that Emerson Esports fosters.

“This was a space that I valued and just loved being a part of, so I was like, ‘I’m gonna keep going,’” she said. “Just being able to connect the gamers here on campus and create a safe, affirming space for all those who want to be involved.”

Hebert hopes her leadership as co-president can help draw in new members, as she recalls learning about Emerson Esports through a previous president, who was also a female-identifying leader in a typically male-dominated space.

“I had never been exposed to seeing a woman in esports in a position like [that],” Hebert said, adding that she had previously experienced and continues to face a “crazy amount” of harassment as a woman in video games. 

“It’s still that way today, unfortunately,” Hebert said. “But seeing her leadership and the space that she was trying to make, and encouraging me to feel like I can do it, really opened my eyes … [and showed me] the space that I want to create for other people who feel the same.”

In addition to creating a fun and affirming space, Hebert said Emerson Esports also provides students the opportunity to apply their studies to leadership, communications, and managerial positions within the organization.

“We have our general board and our [executive] board, which are designed to essentially allow students to have leadership positions and kind of get a feel for what collegiate esports is all about,” Hebert said, “It gives students leadership opportunities, whether that’s in social media, content, events, management, production, things like that. There’s lots of different areas that esports covers and we want to give students the chance to be able to work in those positions and tailor their majors here at Emerson to those positions.”

Hebert said she notices clear connections between her business of creative enterprises classes and her work with the esports executive board.

“Everything that I’m learning about the creative economy and the world that we live in, it applies exactly to what I’m doing with the org,” she said. 

Hebert’s co-president, senior visual and media arts major Evan O’Leonard, said his post-college career aspirations are inspired by his work within esports rather than his major studies. He is also completing a minor in esports communication. 

“I want to work in the esports industry, especially in team management,” O’Leonard said. “And that’s through all the work I’ve done in esports. I’ve been the coordinator for my Overwatch team for the past two and a half years now, so a lot of that is management work, like setting up practice schedules, finding scrimmages, communicating with other teams, setting up match times.”

From his esports experience, O’Leonard has cultivated not only managerial practice, but also strong bonds with other players, likewise to Beck’s and Hebert’s experiences.

“You build a lot of camaraderie with your teammates,” said O’Leonard, who competes on the varsity Overwatch and Omega Strikers teams. “I’ve done my best to build a community within that.”

Beck encourages others to check Emerson Esports out, even if they haven’t had much experience with competitive gaming.

“Even if you don’t consider yourself a gamer,” Beck said, adding that he hardly identifies as one himself, “just give it a shot. Come out to game night. Join the discord, follow the Instagram, get updates on that kind of stuff. We’re open to absolutely anybody.”

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About the Contributor
Maddie Khaw, Assistant News Editor
Maddie Khaw (she/her) is a junior journalism major from Portland, Oregon and serves as the assistant news editor for The Beacon's citywide coverage. In addition to journalism, she is also majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on race, gender, and social justice, and plays on Emerson's women's soccer team.

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