Kent Esports – It’s in the game

In 2019, 16-year-old American Kyle Giersdorf made the headlines after taking top prize in a tournament for the popular online video game Fortnite and winning $3m (£2.5m).

 

The Esports industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing in the world valued at over $1.38b (£1.175b) with approximately 532 million Esports viewers in 2022 alone and there have even been discussions about making this an Olympic event in 2028.

 

Based out of the University of Kent in Canterbury, CommunityAd spoke to the President of Kent Esports, Sam Carder, to find out more about the fascinating world of electronic sports…

 

What was the reason behind starting Kent Esports, when and how did it first get formed and what was the initial response like?

Back in 2016, Kent had a number of gaming societies that were entirely separate and built around individual games. There was an Overwatch society, a League of Legends society, a Counter-Strike society, and so on. Kore — the founder of our society — had the personal mission of uniting these into one. In 2019, an agreement was formed between two of the societies, and subsequently the others wanted in. This was the genesis of Kent Esports.

During the summer of 2019, a committee team was elected and began setting everything up for the year. We managed to get a ROG bus on the University of Kent campus for freshers’ week, where people could play against their friends and prizes were awarded to the winners. Thanks to this, the society’s reputation skyrocketed, both online and in person. Even with the struggles that COVID introduced in 2020, we managed to strive and became one of the largest non-sport societies in Kent.

 

Can you explain to readers just how massive Esports has grown and developed over the last 10 years?

The Esports industry is one of the fastest growing industries the world has seen over the last few decades. It started as a small, dedicated community of gamers who loved playing competitive video games so much that they would host LAN (local area network) events in their houses, internet cafés, and so on. Nobody was paid and prize money would barely cover the travel cost for getting to the event.

Now, the top Esports athletes typically earn 6+ figure salaries, plus any prize money won, and get to tour the world with their team organisations. Statista estimate that there are now upwards of 500 million Esports viewers across the world, with this figure continually growing. It has come a very long way since its inception.

 

What would you say have been Kent Esports most memorable moments so far?

One of our biggest moments came this year, when our Valorant team reached the grand finals of a National Student Esports tournament and travelled to the Insomnia Gaming Festival arena in Birmingham. They put up a fantastic performance and made our society very proud. We were cheering for them all the way and are always so pleased to see just how much talent we discover and develop at Kent.

Another huge moment was when a couple of our members travelled to Belgium to watch the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major. We had opportunities to meet some of the greatest professional players of all time and even got to play some games of our own on a small stage.

 

With the ‘door open’ for Esports to become an Olympic event at the 2028 Los Angeles Games, how exciting is it that this game is getting to such high competitive levels and what would your counter argument be to critics that dismiss Esports and wrongly label it as a waste of time?

I think it’s fantastic that Esports is starting to become as respected as mainstream sports. I also think it’s natural that it has attracted its critics; it’s definitely the case that athletes in traditional sports have very different physical requirements to Esports athletes. For those who believe that Esports is a waste of time, however, I invite them to consider this: Esports should only be considered a waste of time to the same extent that you’d consider regular sports a waste of time. There are people who like to play football, snooker, basketball, etc. purely to enjoy themselves. There are also those who play with the goal of becoming a professional and achieving greatness. Esports are no different — some people play video games to unwind and socialise, and others play them to start a career and compete at the highest level. The view that this is somehow a waste of time implies that all hobbies are a waste of time, and I think that’s terribly misguided.

 

When is your next tournament and how are you able to manage Esports with studying/work commitments?

Our next tournaments are in October. We mostly participate in University leagues, though we do also play in varsity tournaments and in local community leagues. This normally translates to one or two official games a week, with a day or two for weekly team practice sessions. Balancing this with work/study commitments isn’t usually difficult, though we do have some players who opt to sign up as substitutes. This is when they wish to play but cannot promise to stick to any kind of practice schedule or guarantee availability on game days. We try to be as understanding and compassionate as possible.

 

To readers based in Kent interested in Esports, is there a way they could join the group or do you have certain guidelines for this?

The best way to get in touch with us is via our Discord. You can find this online by searching for “Kent Esports Discord” or using the link. Anyone is welcome to join our society, though to take part in our events and socials, you have to purchase a membership from our website. This is £10 and lasts the entire year.

 

Where would you like Kent Esports to be in the next 10 years?

We are hoping to travel to more in-person events now that COVID restrictions are easing. Of course, we are also trying to grow our membership and qualify for as many important tournament leagues as possible. As for where we’ll be in 10 years: honestly, who knows? But hopefully we’ll have more trophies in our trophy cabinet and more members with successful careers in the industry.

 

by Matthew Hemmings

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