No timeout for RIT Esports during pandemic

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Monroe County Post

While many college athletics are on a timeout during the pandemic, esports at Rochester Institute of Technology are plugged in and fully operational.

RIT Esports has student groups playing 15 different competitive games this semester, along with four teams to support esports operations. As teams start their fall leagues, students are finding different ways to practice and scrimmage in a socially distanced manner.

“I feel like we are really lucky, because the nature of what we do doesn’t require a lot of in-person interaction and we don’t have to cancel many of our activities,” said Hillary Li, of Manhattan, president of RIT Esports. “We definitely miss the in-person interactions though, because it’s fun and helps create a level of familiarity.”

Esports leaders said most student players have their own setup, so they can compete from wherever they are living; however, RIT Esports created social-distancing protocols for students to use computer labs and the esports lounge.

“We only allow six people in the lounge at a time, we have cleaning supplies for all the surfaces and we have unplugged every other computer for social distancing,” Li said. “We are requiring that students wear masks and bring their own headsets.”

Many teams are finishing tryouts and determining which leagues they will play in this fall. To prepare, students are competing in “scrims,” playing as teams in public lobbies and watching video of their gameplay, called VOD review.

“It’s actually been super nice to have esports since quarantine,” said Zach McMurray, of Scarsdale, a player on the “Call of Duty” team. “I spent so much time on COD during quarantine that it flew by for me. We’re not playing other people in-person, so there’s no COVID risk. 

Will Kneeland, a caster for the broadcasting team and player for the “Valorant” squad, said it isn’t too different doing things remotely, but he does miss the camaraderie.

“I miss showing up on Friday night to labs and finding a whole group of people to talk to with similar interests,” said Kneeland, of Bangor, Maine. “I am very glad to be able to still do what I love in the middle of all of this. I don't know if my sanity would hold without it.”

Throughout the year, RIT Esports plans to produce more livestreams of gameplay, and hold online events and game nights.

RIT currently has esports teams or squads playing “Apex Legends,” “Call of Duty,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” “Dota 2,” “Hearthstone,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Rainbow Six Siege,” “Rocket League,” “Smite,” “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” “Magic: The Gathering Arena,” “StarCraft II,” “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and “Valorant.” 

Student-led teams are supporting RIT Esports with broadcasting, community, development and production. Visit ritesports.org for information.

RIT Esports is fully operational and has student groups playing 15 different games.