“30 minutes.” This short amount of time is what separates the elite from the casual in esports.
Faker, a competitor who is considered to be one of the greatest League of Legends players of all time, is known for his very strict schedule, in which every event of every day is broken down into a dedicated time period. This includes six hours of scrimmages, six hours of solo matches, and only thirty minutes per day of allotted free time. This is a major challenge that is overlooked when the prospect of gaming for a living is offered, a job that many kids at one point of their lives dream of having.
The Oklahoma Christian University esports team has only
been in existence for a short time, but it has advanced as quickly or even faster than many programs in major and surrounding schools. Of all accredited universities in the nation, only 130 esports programs exist. In Oklahoma, only a handful of colleges have programs, such as Oklahoma University, Rogers State, Oklahoma City University, and Oklahoma Christian. Of these, only two offer scholarships ,Oklahoma Christian is one of these schools.
Ryhu Lepage, a freshman member of the team, gave some insight on the team.
“We’ve just been working to get a foundation set, setting up varsity teams,” Lepage said. “There are scholarships just like traditional athletics and they get all the same student-athlete benefits.”
The program is much different than any other college activity since the competition is not held directly through the NCAA. Programs and directors line up competition through official leagues usually run by the developer of the games themselves. The competition is not limited to a divisional level such as a conference, so Oklahoma Christian players face some of the stiffest and best competition from the entire world. With this, Oklahoma Christian is in the process of creating an official practice area.
Lucas Heyworth, director of the esports program, who as been with the program since January of this year and gave his thoughts on the goals of the program.
“If we can get a working facility up within a year, we will be at record pace compared to any other college,” Heyworth said. “I’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of different people, and it’s been a group process for sure.”
Like all sports at the current time, the coronavirus has hit the team especially hard.
“We had nine recruits decide to wait until the spring to come to [Oklahoma Christian],” Heyworth explained, “and five decided that they wouldn’t come this year due to COVID.”
Practices have been affected, as social distancing is a requirement for the campus, so competitors are forced to play via voice chat and separate connection. This has created some issues since games can become laggy and ruin the flow of the game due to an unstable connection.
“They’re all split up in their dorms, so they lose the in-person communication, and they lose that dynamic,” Heywort said. “Also, there is no standardization of equipment, so [Ryhu] playing on a laptop and getting 20 fps versus someone playing on a PC, which is smooth and consistent, creates an unfair advantage. It’s like playing baseball and being given a wooden bat while everyone else gets to use a metal bat.”
Another difference in the esports program as opposed to others is the recruitment process. Heyworth explained it, “Basically I put up a link on Discord, and wait for people to respond. I usually try to post to the servers every few hours and I get messages from a few people a day interested in the program.”
The program isn’t limited to just competition. Members of the team can receive a degree in esports business management, overseen by Professor Wes McKinzie. Other opportunities exist, including sports psychology, something that interests Lepage.
“The way esports makes it just as or even more stressful than actual sports, just because of the target audience and the wide exposure,” Lepage said. “It’s not easy, it’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of stress.”