Ben Lepper ‘25
Fans of video games have been prophesying the rise of Esports for years now, and the takeover has finally begun. Some might not know this, but there have been successful competitive video game leagues running for years now. Some of them, like the OWL (Overwatch League), have teams owned by familiar names: the Boston Uprising are owned by Robert Kraft, and the Los Angeles Gladiators are owned by Stan Kroenke. Obviously, these sports titans are starting to pay attention to competitive video gaming as legitimate sport, and thus, so should we. Now, colleges all over the world have Esports teams as another option for competition outside of varsity athletics. And, of course, Holy Cross is one of them.
Holy Cross’ Esports program has been running for a few years now, and consists of a couple of different teams focused on different games. Each of these teams play in the National Esports Collegiate Conference, and are placed into a regional division for each game, just like any D1 team would be. For example, one of the teams Holy Cross offers is a Rocket League team. Rocket League’s popularity has soared since its launch, thanks in part to its free-to-play nature and creative concept (soccer but with cars), and is one of the more popular Esports out there. Holy Cross’ Rocket League team plays in the Atlantic conference of the Emergents division, where they face local schools such as WPI, UMass Amherst, Clark, and Assumption. Other teams in the Emergents division include massive schools, such as Alabama and Michigan.
Rocket League isn’t Holy Cross’ only option. There are also teams for Overwatch, League Of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros., and Rainbow Six: Siege. All of these teams have recently finished their seasons, and all did fairly well. For example, the Overwatch team went 4-5, and the Rocket League team went 4-4. Obviously not perfect. but, as Esports continue to grow, Holy Cross’ program will continue to develop.
However, there is one Esport at Holy Cross that has already begun to make waves: Valorant, a free-to-play shooter comparable to Counter Strike. The Crusaders finished the regular season 6-2, good enough for the first seed in the playoffs. In their first playoff match, they defeated Ithaca College 2-0 (to get a point, a team must win 13 matches). At press time, the Crusaders are preparing to face off against 4th seeded New Jersey City University on November 28th. If they win that game, they advance to the finals on December 5th. A finals win would be huge for this program, and it is certainly in the cards. [Editor’s note: The Crusaders did indeed advance to the finals, and will be battling SUNY Oneonta.]
While Esports are not at the forefront of everybody’s minds, they certainly are making waves. Most everyone at this point is at least aware of what they are, which is miles ahead of where we were a few years ago. The future of Esports is uncertain, but one thing is: if you are good at video games, definitely go give them a try. The program is just getting started, and who knows what it’ll be a few years down the road?