In the coming weeks, a spotlight will be put on some of the key esports organizations in Metro Vancouver. Starting things off will be the Burnaby based collegiate club SFU Esports.
Founded in 2016, SFU Esports was originally created when the growing number of individual gaming clubs came together to form the SFU Esports Association. Many post-secondary schools have gaming clubs like SFU Esports that run events from viewing parties and various get togethers all the way to high level esports tournaments, manage collegiate level teams/players representing the club/school, and act as social hub for the growing student population and general public that enjoy gaming.
Among all the collegiate esports clubs in British Columbia, UBC Esports and SFU Esports have always been the two leaders of the ecosystem. While UBC Esports has been ahead of its rival club for most of its history, SFU Esports has slowly and progressively built up one of the largest clubs at SFU, despite the lack of support from Simon Fraser University itself. On the lack of support from the school, current co-president, Brandon Situ said that while the club has been able to host huge events in 2020 with more in the works, it has been largely thanks to the hard work of the club executives and the support of sponsors. However, in the long run, he realizes this can’t last forever:
“There is a huge amount of stress that goes through us leading up to every event as we frantically reach out to secure funding. SFU Esports club has been under the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) who provides support in terms of grants, room booking support, and exposure to the school. As SFU Esports has grown over the years, so has our need for further support. In past events, the club relied mostly on attendance fees, sponsors, and the club’s own savings account to scrape together a moderate prize pool. Tournaments are a crucial part of our club’s identity and not being able to provide free tournaments to students is a huge letdown.”
On the competitive side of things, the club fields top teams in multiple game titles. The club was the League of Legends champions of Collegiate Starleague in 2018, beating out big-name schools like UBC and Columbia College.
Along with that, their League of Legends division is often a top contender in the western conference in the Collegiate League of Legends scene. Another highlight of the competitive division of the club comes in the way of their team for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Lead by Brian “RowdyOwly” Tai, SFU Esports has become one of the top collegiate Rainbow 6 teams in all of North America. Along with that, RowdyOwly along with 3 other members of the team were able to qualify for the inaugural season of the North American League in the Canadian division (now under LiViD Gaming).
Outside of their top teams, SFU Esports also remains competitive in titles such as Overwatch, Hearthstone, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and is set to have a strong showing in Valorant as well. On the success of their competitive teams, Situ praised the talent of the players themselves, adding “despite having little to offer in terms of player support they are still donating their time towards the school team.”
When it comes to events, SFU Esports has recently stepped things up with some big events. Apart from their big tournaments like C-LAN and Raccoon Cup, SFU Esports has recently partnered with Memory Express for their Valorant vs COVID charity tournament. Along with that, they worked with SFU Anime Club to host SFU Gamesfest, a week-long online event ending with tournaments in Valorant, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and League of Legends. When asked about their experience of working with another club in SFU Anime, Situ said that he always wanted to work with SFU Anime due to their similar target demographic and that it was a good experience overall, “while working with them, they have shown tons of neat planning tips which we incorporated into our processes.”
Luckily for the club, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t do much to hurt the club. Situ said that as the club is “fundamentally mostly online” the club was able to go about their business in mostly the same ways. While they have reintroduced some online events like in-houses during the summer as a result, the club has been mostly the same. “Although it is a lot of work to create and plan for these events, everyone at SFU Esports is happy to help students enjoy school at home just a little bit better,” said Situ.
On top of that, the club has some big events in the plans for the Fall semester. For the casual social event side, SFU Esports is looking towards hosting a Virtual Gaming Industry Night in early October featuring industry professionals from the Esports and Gaming industry. On top of that, SFU Esports has also introduced their new Fall flagship event in Scrapdown 2020. With three games featured in Valorant, League of Legends, and Smash Ultimate, the two-day event will be free to enter with no restrictions. Along with that, each game title will have at least a $550 prize pool.
Overall, SFU Esports has grown a lot since its creation in 2016 and has become a key contributor to the esports ecosystem in Vancouver. Looking ahead to the future, Situ talked about his goals moving forward with fellow co-president, Max Kaczmarczyk, “In our term as co-presidents, [we will] aim to work closely with our community and SFU to offer more opportunities to receive benefits such as Esport scholarships, social events, and local tournaments for SFU students.” With the club continuing to grow, the rest of 2020 and 2021 will be big years for SFU Esports.