4/16/20 esports graphic

Three of the five games have already begun pool play, and the first Rocket League championship will be April 22.

The gap in student activity after in-person classes were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been filled for some in the form of online video game tournaments.

The competitions include the games NBA 2K20, Madden NFL 20, Rocket League, League of Legends and FIFA 20. Each “sports” game — Madden, NBA and FIFA — has a separate tournament for PS4 and Xbox players, and the remaining games can be played on either console or PC.

“We were planning to implement esports eventually,” said Rachel Rayford, senior assistant director of intramural sports at Purdue. “It’s been a program that’s kind of exploded over the past couple years once you get into it.

“Part of my job is finding ways for students to be social and connect, and we’re finding a lot of students are doing this through video games,” she added.

Rayford said that after in-person sports were canceled, the Recreation and Wellness staff moved forward with esports, preparing the tournaments in just eight days.

Students were first informed of the competitions via email from Purdue Recreation and Wellness on March 30. Accompanying the email was a 50-second self-proclaimed “hype video” that showcases the games included in the competitions.

Michael Lewis, a sophomore in the Krannert School of Management, signed up almost immediately.

“At first it said Rocket League,” Lewis said, “and then I looked more into it and I saw that they had NBA 2K and they had Madden as well. I was interested in those two, because I play those every day.”

Lewis will be competing in the NBA 2K tournament Sunday. He said that although he has a lot of experience with the game, he has never played competitively before.

Lewis said he has participated in his fair share of in-person intramural sports, including basketball, dodge ball and flag football. This, however, will be different.

“I actually think this is a great idea,” Lewis said. “Not everybody plays sports, so that would be a great option because a lot of people play video games more than sports.”

Other participants aren’t as convinced it’s a fitting replacement.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Ethan Evans, a junior in the College of Engineering. “I do appreciate that they’re doing it. I don’t know if it’s better than just refunding the Co-Rec fee.”

While there is no fee to enter the competitions, all participants must buy their own copy of the game. The most expensive games sell for up to $60. Evans said he already owned Rocket League, but for others who would have to buy copies, it is a less apt substitute for the absence of the Co-Rec and related activities.

Regardless, Rayford thinks students have responded well.

“We have over 350 people participating right now, which is a surprise for us,” Rayford said. “I didn’t expect that many just because it was a very quick turnover.”

Nolan Baird, a senior in the College of Engineering, participated in the first Rocket League tournament before being eliminated Wednesday morning.

“It’s not the same as going out and playing a physical sport,” Baird said, “but it’s still fun.”

That tournament is still under way, with the championship set for April 22, and has so far given participants no major issues, Rayford said.

“I anticipated us to have unforeseen challenges,” Rayford said, “(but) so far it’s gone really well.”

As of now, Rocket League tournament No. 1 has started tournament play, and League of Legends Tournament No. 1 as well as both the PS4 and Xbox FIFA tournaments are both in pool play.

A more detailed schedule and standings can be found on the intramurals website, along with links to stream the championship games of each event. Links will also be sent to each participant individually.

Rayford encourages participants to stream as many of their own games as they want.

“That only gives the gamers more exposure (and) it only allows more people to see that these tournaments are going on and they can get involved,” she said.

Rayford said Intramural Sports is considering adding more games in the future based on user feedback. Those games could be played as early as the fall semester.

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