By Jake DiPaola
Elm Staff Writer
The countdown begins — “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… round start.”
Senior David Rascoe, playing the support hero Lucio, boosts his team’s speed to make it to the control point before the enemy does without his teammates getting left behind. Junior and Vice President of E-Sports Julia Cunningham, playing as the tank hero Orisa, sets up a defensive shield at the center of the control point, so her teammates have some cover. Rascoe rushes behind enemy lines and eliminates an enemy tank hero, while senior Carl James takes up position behind Cunningham’s shield and begins firing a barrage of explosives. Soon, the zone is captured, but this is only the first clash of many.
Washington College’s Overwatch team, part of the E-Sports League, competed against Quinnipiac University on Wednesday, Feb. 20. They lost the match 0 to 3, a contrast to the previous game where WC won 3 to 0. The team was comprised of junior and team captain Michael Spence, Cunningham, Rascoe, junior Drew Haslow, James, and freshman Andrew Province.
Overwatch is a competitive, multiplayer first-person shooter videogame in which two teams of six players face off to complete objectives in various game modes. The game modes include “control,” in which two teams fight to control a single zone, “assault,” in which one team defends two objectives in succession, and “escort,” in which one team fights near a slow-moving vehicle while repelling the enemy team.
In the game, each member of the team fulfills one of three roles. Two players play as tanks — heroes who sustain a lot of damage before being eliminated, two play as damage heroes who deal a lot more damage than others, and two play as support heroes who are usually healers for their team. Every player has a variety of attacks, unique abilities, and an ultimate ability that recharges faster the better you perform.
The game is filled with a diverse roster of heroes. Players can play as a large ape with a railgun, a DJ on rollerblades, a pilot trapped in time, a cyborg ninja, a lava-dwarf, a sniper and chemist, a mechanical centaur, an ecologist with a freeze-ray, or a giant knight wielding a hammer of fire — and that’s not even half of the roster of playable heroes.
The team of six compete in a reserved room with high end computers from Atlantek Computers Systems and other such equipment, and coordinate strikes against the enemy team to secure their objectives and win the game.
The computers and other equipment, such as mice, keyboards, headphones, and chairs, are mostly provided through Student Government Association funding.
“We had the first six computers donated to the club by an anonymous donor. The other seven PCs plus all the monitors, furniture, and league fees are funded by SGA,” said Steven Kaneshiki, the faculty advisor for E-Sports.
Kaneshiki coordinates competitions with other schools and performs upkeep for the club such as providing card access for club members, updating the web page schedule, and enforcing club rules.
During the match, the team used callouts when a member saw an advantageous situation. For instance, when an enemy was hit with a grenade that cuts off their healing abilities, their health bar changed to a purple hue and a unique call was made to coordinate an attack. While a room full of people shouting “purple” may seem strange, these players make complete sense of the term.
The team usually practices three times a week, however some practice outside of the club on their own time. “I’m thinking, and this is just a rough estimate, I probably play about 10 to 15 hours a week,” said Rascoe.
Competitions are streamed from the game room live on a platform called Twitch. You can find these streams at WashColl_Esports where you can watch live or view recent games.
“I think [Overwatch is] already is a spectator sport,” said Cunningham. “With something like Overwatch League, fans can watch games live in the stadiums or online streams. There were also watch parties where fans that couldn’t make it to the live game due to distance would meet up at bars and watch together from there. We even had a watch party here during the Overwatch League finals.”
“I have a plan worked out, with the help from various departments on campus, in case the club want to hold their own LAN invitational,” said Kaneshiki. LAN stands for Local-Area Network, so the two teams would be playing on the same network head-to-head in the same room with a stadium audience.
“If they ever expressed interest in it and put a committee together to put one on, I would definitely be able to help make that happen,” said Kaneshiki.
The E-Sports club is not just for competitive Overwatch players.
“The E-Sports Club is for casual gamers too,” said Kaneshiki. “We have open hours all the time for people to come in and play or hang out.”
The club has various consoles and games including Xbox One, Play Station 4, Nintendo Switch, and Gamecube, as well as 11 gaming PCs. The game room has open hours every day of the week with a practice schedule for competitive players updated weekly in the Discord.
Students can get access to the Discord and join the club by emailing Steve Kaneshiki at firstname.lastname@example.org and filling out a short questionnaire.