eSports can be scattered around campus and still practice

by Andrew Hoenig and Brendan Neal

The FPU League gathered for one of their two weekly practices, Thursday, February 15 at 8:15 p.m. Or rather they connected for their practice. Ryan Woolley sat in the 24-hour IT lounge on campus, laptop open and earbuds in as he and his teammates connected through the app known as Discord, which functions similarly to Skype.

Discord allowed the team to connect and hear each other through their earphones so they could practice together even without being physically together so they could play the popular online game League of Legends.

Woolley says that communication is essential to playing the game. “[It’s] really key,” said Woolley. “We gotta coordinate, come up with our strategy…what’s a game without a strategy?”

The FPU League Thursday night practice takes place in the online virtual battlefield known as Summoners Rift (Photo: Andrew Hoenig)

This coordination became evident as the team’s starting five players – Woolley, Brian Dowling, Anthony Biglow, Miles Fah, and Nick Byram – all started toward completing their mission.

“Our objective is to destroy the Nexus and collect as much gold as we can in as much time as we can,” Woolley said.
The Nexus is the final objective, which the team has to capture and destroy. “The more gold you collect in the game, the better, because a player can buy more items and make his character or “champion” stronger,” said Woolley.

The team also practiced on a specific map known as Summoners Rift. Time was critical in the virtual world as every second counts when trying to execute a winning game plan.

“Not a lot of people may know this but the Wi-fi connection at FPU was crap after 8 until about 9,” said Woolley. “And a tenth of a second makes a huge difference in this sport.”

The IT department recently improved the Wi-fi connection and this allowed Woolley and his teammates to seem relaxed during the practice in their online battlefield.

“It’s not too intense, but the practices help build our team confidence and develop our synergy,” said Woolley. Practice times usually vary depending on the athletes’ school commitments.

One player, Eric Hammett, has struggled with his commitments while being a part of the team. “I found that some of my class work usually has to be done during the practice times, so it’s been hard to stay committed but right now, yes, I’m still a part of the team,” said Hammett.

This year the club has seven players on the team which is the most in program history. Five starters are in each game per match and the team has substitutes, such as Hammett, on stand-by.

“We have a strong base in terms of practices and the tournament,” Woolley said.
“Games normally last between 20 to 30 minutes, but can go over 40 in an especially intense battle.”

Ryan Woolley practices with his team while connected on the app Discord (Photo: Andrew Hoenig)

There are 86 teams in the Eastern Conference. The season is only six weeks long and runs from January 15 to February 25. To win a match, one of the two teams has to win two out of three games.

This season the FPU League finished 2-4, but the team’s last match ended up being a win by forfeit, which means an automatic 2-0 match victory.

“In the long run, it’s just a game, but you definitely want to win,” Woolley said. Woolley also is a member of the Franklin Pierce Student Government Association (SGA) and is part of the track team doing pole vault.

Woolley’s relaxed nature did not hide his passion for his sport as he smiled and talked about his game.
“It’s casual and competitive so it’s not been too hard to manage it with everything else,” said Woolley.
The club is growing and a strong base is in place for the team to build on heading into next season.

“Some Big Ten schools even give out scholarships for roughly $8,000 and everybody wants to win. We definitely take it seriously,” Woolley said.

The FPU League sends out e-mails the day of a practice detailing time and location. This is so any students who wish to join the team can meet with the athletes or just observe and even join the practice.

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