BGSU’s fall sports may have been postponed, but BGSU Esports will continue to crack their knuckles, pick up their controllers and settle in front of their monitors.
BGSU Esports was started by a group of students with two things in common: a love for video games and a desire to mix that love with their competitive spirit.
And this love of gaming remains at the core of the organization under President Mat Corfee.
They play a wide variety of competitive games, including “League of Legends,” “Rainbow Six Siege,” “Overwatch,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” “Call of Duty” and “Hearthstone,” among others.
“Pretty much any first-person shooter we’ve got a team for. And then there’s a couple of outliers like ‘Hearthstone,’ ‘Smash Bros.’ and ‘Rocket League,’” Corfee said.
And they’ve seen success for some of these games, most notably “Call of Duty.”
“Our ‘Call of Duty’ team, if I’m not mistaken, was at one point third in the region and 13th in the country. So they were definitely way up on top,” he said. “The rest of our teams are great but those guys just stomped. They had insane coordination and it was very, very impressive.”
And the “Hearthstone” team has achieved a notable placement as well, making it to the finals of a tournament they competed in over the summer.
As for the upcoming semester’s competitions, Corfee sees BGSU Esports reaching even greater heights.
“Those are two teams that I know have made it quite far up the ladder already,” he said. “This upcoming semester we’ve got a lot of new players and a lot of roster changes for these teams, so I expect to see a lot of different things come out from these people.”
They plan to add more games to their competitive list this semester as well, including Riot Games’ summer release “Valorant,” the clumsy jellybean party royale “Fall Guys” and possibly even electronic chess.
“A lot of these new games are still in the planning stage, like possibly bringing a ‘Fortnite’ team back together, so I’m not sure yet if they’ll come to fruition,” Corfee said.
Starting a team for a new game is as simple as gathering a group of players to fill out a full team, — which varies from game to game — finding tournaments to play in, paying the lab and competitive fees — which provide funding for the organization — and notifying Corfee or another officer of the idea.
“We’ve tried to make it as streamlined as possible so people can play what they want to as quickly as they can,” Corfee said. “We’ve never said no to a team. As long as you’ve got the bare minimum you’re pretty much good.”
They’ve never had a shortage of players for a team either, often having double or triple the amount of players necessary. But an overflow of players doesn’t mean people are left on the wayside.
Last semester, they had 24 players for “Overwatch,” which is a team-based game of six vs. six that Corfee coached. With six starters and six substitutions, Corfee had to be creative with how he included the rest of the interested players.
“We had a competitive team and a fundamentals team, which were players that could become competitive but needed a little bit more time playing with a team, getting their coordination up, getting that game sense ready,” he said.
But high-stakes competitive gaming in tournaments against teams from the MAC and all over the country isn’t the only space for passionate gamers to fit in.
Creating a space for people “to just enjoy games for what they are” is something that Corfee emphasizes to the members.
With over 300 members, not everyone has the skill to, or even wants to, play their favorite games competitively.
At its core, BGSU Esports is just a place for people who love video games,” Corfee said. “We try to make it as fun and comfortable of an area as possible for people to come and play and discuss what they love.”
They host events like BG Battlegrounds, where “everyone just shows up and plays ‘Smash (Bros.)’ with each other.” Sometimes they have tournaments, but they also have areas designated for “goofing off,” where players can turn on items and map hazards and enjoy the game without the competitive trappings.
They also hosted a watch party for last year’s “Overwatch” Grand Finals, with more than 50 people showing up.
“It’s just a lot of little things, where a like-minded community just gets together and does things. We don’t always play video games either,” Corfee said, referencing Discord watch parties they’ve had for movies.
Creating a space where everyone respects one another, no matter their skill level, is important to Corfee, as toxicity is a prevalent issue in the gaming community.
“When I became president, my biggest focus was eliminating the ‘toxic-gamer cultures’ that so many people have associated with esports,” he said. “For so long, people have been able to get away with that (toxicity). From day one, I wanted to make sure there was going to be no hate of any kind in this organization, and that’s something my officers and I stand firmly against.”
Corfee hasn’t met anyone in BGSU Esports that displays this toxicity, but he wants to make sure that everyone, especially new members, knows they won’t be judged or made fun of for their skill level or how much they know about a game.
And creating this wholesome community is something Corfee couldn’t do without his officers — the executive board of BGSU Esports.
“With how many people are messaging me every day for help and how much stuff I’m always working on in the background, this organization wouldn’t function without them, so I have to thank them for that,” he said.
And like everyone involved, Corfee and the officers are passionate about games as well, and enjoy seeing others participate in these discussions.
“I’m always really excited to see people let loose and just ramble about what they love, because they know everyone else will be there to listen and not judge them,” Corfee said.
Creating this sense of community and companionship among the body of the organization happens at a smaller level too, as Corfee emphasized the bond he encourages each competitive team to form.
When Corfee coached the “Overwatch” team, both the competitive and fundamentals teams often went out to dinner together and socialized away from their controllers, he said.
“If you’re not friends you’re not gonna be good teammates,” he said. “When you’re working with people you enjoy working with, your chances of improving and being an effective player really increase.”
“For Overwatch, I told them to work as one team of six people, as opposed to a team of six individuals.”
And through these bonds, in competitive teams and as a whole organization, they’ve been able to reach milestones that help legitimize esports as a competitive sport to look out for.
One of these ways is through the esports lab they were able to build in BGSU’s Offenhauer towers last spring. Although they only had it for two weeks until classes went full online and they no longer had access to it, Corfee saw this as an important step forward.
“The school completely funded the project. They bought us 20 brand new computers, 20 brand new chairs and a bunch of things, which was just huge. Because practicing in that room with your teammates in line as opposed to all spread out or in their own rooms over voice chat is just two very different energies. People are able to improve a lot more this way,” he said.
Through this lab, the success their teams have seen and how many of their teams are competing in the newly formed MAC esports league, they have the tools to improve immensely, Corfee said.
With the cancellation of many fall sports and the ways in which esports differs from more “traditional” sports are reasons why they have this opportunity to rise in legitimacy.
“It may be called ‘esports,’ but I’d say it’s actually a lot different than other sports because it’s obviously less physically compelling, other than your wrists and your fingers,” he said. “With football, you’re just watching football. But with esports, you’re getting a much larger range, because you can watch literally any game under the sun.”
Exposing new people to esports is a goal of Corfee’s this semester, as having a fanbase to back players is an important part of a team’s success.
“One of the most important things about esports is having that fanbase to back you, and having that team of people behind you that aren’t even playing to support you,” he said. “We’re ready to show people that BG is a force to be reckoned with.