Image Credit: University of York Fragsoc
A lot more goes into Roses than you might think. Nowhere else is this more the case than for this year's Esports Roses Tournament. Ryan Smith, an Esports Officer for FragSoc, spoke to me about the ins and outs of hosting a successful Roses tournament.
After the disappointment of not having a proper Roses last year, Ryan was determined to organise more Esports tournaments for the team: "YUSU didn't have any plans, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something else." Most of what would later become the Esports events seen in Roses were organised by Ryan remotely from his room. He contacted Lancaster and began organising the event before YUSU had even contacted the society. They had initially intended it to be scheduled for the weekend after Roses to ensure the best outcome for viewership and players. However, YUSU came forward and seemed enthusiastic to include Esports this year. Ryan recalls how "YUSU really wanted to do it that weekend to fill some gaps, the stars kind of aligned." So despite a lack of solid backing from the University, Roses Esports were able to go ahead this year.
Lancaster has a great Esports team, but they are still relatively new to broadcasting and hosting tournaments, which meant that FragSoc didn't get much pushback on decisions. Having said this, getting the Roses stream sorted was no mean feat. Ryan stresses how "Getting the teams together in itself was difficult enough. But also trying to find on-air talent, we're talking casters and observers for their respective titles was an uphill challenge." This is where the experience and talent of FragSoc came in for the clutch. As York has been doing streams in the past, it meant that they had an excellent alumni pool to help them and step in where needed. For example, Ryan points out how many of their first-team players are also their top picks for casters. Which is one of the reasons their show matches went so well.
One of the essential parts of the entire stream for Ryan was achieving an equal viewpoint. FragSoc always tried to make sure that they had a duo cast from both universities to avoid any unconscious bias. However, this is never easy, especially when you can't have face-to-face meetings and discuss viewpoints. Regardless of these challenges, Ryan stays adamant that it was not only enjoyable but a great opportunity for all, especially their second and practical teams, who got to have some fun. Even the format worked better this year. Previously, Esports teams would have to stay the night at the university as competitions went on for so long after squeezing four titles into half a day. However, this year, they put on six competitive titles plus show matches over the weekend in a competitive format that you wouldn't usually see.
"We really want to see a change in the way we run the event to reflect this. I think both societies really enjoyed it."
All positive observations will be carried forward to next year. In a debrief between Lancaster and York teams, Ryan noted how discussions "about plans from next year with proposals to YUSU and LUSU to change the structure of our roses tournament. Hopefully, it will change to make it a larger event." Currently, the Esports team isn't worth a lot of points. It is being allocated a total of four points after an 18-hour broadcast, which is equal to one second-team event.
That being said, no one in FragSoc is expecting to get as many points as other sports. Ryan acknowledges that this kind of shift would make Esports a significant fraction of Roses, "which I'm sure they don't want especially as Roses is usually centred around traditional sports." Ultimately, help comes in the form of promotion. YUSU can offer so much when it comes to publicity, especially in events like the York Derby held against York St Johns.
"There were talks of getting us broadcasted over campus during Roses which would help us increase the reach."
It's easy enough for FragSoc to reach out to those who have an innate interest in Esports and gaming. They have a thriving society, but YUSU needs to give them some kind of a helping hand to reach the rest of the university community.
Ryan does acknowledge that a lot of change needs to come within the society as well. For example, over the past year, the University of York Esports team was set up to give their competitive players more representation within the society. Ryan keys in that "the divide in our player base may almost warrant this." However, such a massive shift would need an AGM, and as only FragSoc members can vote, many Esports players are left without the ability to decide such a change. As FragSoc owns the rights to gaming and Esports at York, they would have to willingly give up the role of Esports, something that Ryan can't see happening in the near future.
That being said, the University of York Esports team can still support their players:
"As it stands, we don't get any of our members to pay. We don't really need it. We could use the money to give cash incentives at tournaments, but we get a pretty good turnout for these without it. Also, just doing the streaming for Roses has shown us that we can put on a pretty good show for pennies. This just shows how much we can do to support our guys with such little funding. But it's something that we need to agree with FragSoc internally."
Overall, this Roses set up an excellent platform for the future and highlighted some major changes that need to occur within the society and the Students’ Union.