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eSports at Roses

Patrick Walker reports on the eSports competition at Roses 2018

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Image: LUSU

The 2018 Roses event might have been a triumph for Lancaster, but one discipline where the red rose failed to take hold was esports. The 2-1 was a great moment for York's gaming society, but it is now clear that the student unions and gaming societies need to collaborate to modernize the system. Let's deal with that first.

It seemed bizarre to me that Roses currently classifies all three game titles as if they were components of the same discipline. Points are awarded to the university that takes the most games, on a winner-takes-all basis. It assumes that the esports are anything alike, and it's a system that has to change. League of Legends is not remotely similar in terms of gameplay, game length, or even skill demands as Counter Strike. A better system for 2019 would be to award a point individually to each game: the skills between them might be transferrable, but only as transferrable as bowling and tennis. Sure, you might pick up a few things, but you're unlikely to be really great at both. Games, and the skills required to play them, aren't that similar, and Roses needs to stop treating them as such. A 'one game, one point' system that rewards titles separately would be more logical.

There was another elephant in the room. Where was Overwatch? York and Lancaster both fielded two teams for the national spring Overwatch split, which York eventually won. It's a popular game that seemed missing from the roster. Getting a discipline into Roses isn't difficult, however. It is unlikely to be a challenge to add.

Image: Jon Chia for the NUEL

The event began with Roses' newest addition to the esport lineup: Super Smash Brothers. York's Smash Captain says the game has a strong past. It's very popular with the gaming societies of both York and Lancaster. The universities fielded five players, each with three lives. The tournament would end when one team had lost all its lives. Lancaster managed an early lead, taking two York players out before they lost one. York Captain BananaFish wanted to highlight the performance of Nin in taking four lives by himself, but notes that he was left with work to do afterwards, alone against a Lancaster squad with seven lives. Lancaster, the Smash pre-match favourites, took him out with two lives to spare and were declared the victors.

Thankfully for York, this was Smash's first appearance at Roses, so it wasn't factored into the points decision. CS:GO was a different story. With competition progress on the line, York had to win 16 rounds to take a map. They could do this by eliminating the entire enemy team, or planting and detonating, or defusing the bomb. They started three rounds down on their map pick. Despite a few good early kills, Lancaster's ability to retake bomb sites held strong, and York headed onto the Terrorist side looking listless. Lancaster took the pistol, and then the map, heading onto their pick, Overpass. Yet another pistol round went Lancaster's way and the boys in red put up an impenetrable defence on the Counter-Terrorist side. York managed just four rounds before the side switch, and Lancaster closed out the second map 16-7. The first of the three games that would be played for Roses points had fallen to Lancaster.

League of Legends looked brighter for York, following Lancaster's shoddy LoL performance in Roses the previous year. A good early game was secured by York Fredstaa's excellent movement across the three-laned map, and York kept control the whole first game. York claimed all three of Lancaster's level one turrets before the 20-minute-mark, a highly impressive feat in a competitive game. York took a 1-0 series lead in just 27 minutes. For context, the mean game length of the highest echelon of European LoL is around 39 minutes. York headed into their second game with confidence both in their star jungler, and their ability to close out the match. Fredstaa met expectations perfectly, helping to snowball the bot lane. A series of poor objective set-ups was the nail in the coffin for Lancaster. The first of the two MOBAs fell to York. Esports at Roses was tied 1-1.

DOTA 2 had York confident, following a good prior record. Sources say the team had carefully prepared strategies before the event: it is true to say that innovative strategy can win a DOTA game as much as individual skill. York Esport Officer Raffee Jenkins told me that he headed into the final esport of the day 'knowing we had won'. Following an extremely easy first game, he described how York brought out a crazy pick: the character 'Bane', who typically plays a support role, was sent to the middle lane. It was a choice that no one saw coming, and York players steadily began to dominate across the map. Raffee thinks DOTA's one of the most exciting esports out there, and I was totally engrossed watching York slowly pull more and more control of the space away from their opponents. York, after two extremely strong MOBA showings, were able to take the Roses esport competition, and the four points it comprises.

York might have lost the war, but FragSoc's esport teams dominated this battle.

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