eSports RSO preps for competition, future; fights stigma


Karina Delgado

President David Glassman asked students about the games they played as he watched behind them in the eSports arena at the Student Recreation Center after the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday afternoon.

Analicia Haynes, Senior Reporter

With nearly 50 members signed up, the new eSports registered student organization is already practicing for upcoming competitions and tournaments, while also fighting stereotypes.

The RSO was formed in response to a recruitment and retention attempt on the university’s part, which was to bring eSports to campus.

This project included the creation of a new eSports arena that is in the Student Recreation Center and was unveiled on Monday.

A competitive team

Theo Laleian, the president of the RSO, said it is expected to be a competitive group divided into different teams and divisions depending on the games being played. Games include Counter Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends.

Laleian said the members of the RSO who are on a certain team will be able to compete with similar teams at different universities like Illinois Wesleyan or Robert Morris and teams in other states like Michigan or Iowa.

They are able to do this through “GG Leagues,” which is a website where teams in different divisions at different colleges and universities can compete with one another.

Laleian said he was always competitive just like his brother Alex, who swam on Eastern’s swim team. And much like his brother, he said he wanted to be recognized for something, which is why he was attracted to eSports.

He said now he coaches members on League of Legends while the vice president, Bobby Rodriguez, coaches Counter Strike.

“The biggest thing is I want people to be competitive and I want people to have the mindset of ‘I’m not just playing a game, I’m playing to win that game,’” Laleian said.

In addition to having basic knowledge of both games, Rodriguez said they also expect people to have a desire to play and willingness to learn.

But, Laleian said although they want people to have a competitive spirit, they do not want them to be overly competitive.

“I don’t want you to scream and shout if you lose,” Laleian said.

Fighting a stereotype

Ian McCormack, a faculty adviser for the RSO, said gamers do not have the best reputation, which is why they want to work with members to break that stigma.

“(The RSO has) to be extra careful to be very civil,” McCormack said “They have all been on their best behavior and there are no issues, but we’re still going to have to constantly fight this stereotype that gamers are not an inclusive group.”

McCormack said he and Gabriel Grant, a faculty adviser for the RSO, are trying to tell them that they have to build up a welcoming reputation by inviting people into the RSO.

He said everyone is welcome and by doing that it will create an open field for more people to join and thus boost numbers.

Laleian said there is also a misconception that eSports is easy.

“People just expect that you can go in after not playing for two, three, four weeks and just be at your level,” Laleian said. “No.”

He said eSports is like swimming or basketball, it takes a lot of practice to be great at it.

Rodriguez compared it to football.

“They’re not just going to take you on the football team,” Rodriguez said. “They have to (teach you) the ropes.”

Moving forward

Grant said as they look ahead into the next year, there are several goals he hopes to see accomplished.

The first is offering potential scholarships for eSports members and leaders.

Josh Norman, the associate vice president for enrollment management, said scholarships have been talked about but are still in the works, and they anticipate calling them “level up” scholarships.

Grant also said they want to look at different game titles to use and make sure they are playing games that are relevant to the students.

RSO members will also have to pay a $20 fee, which will cover things like new game titles or getting a new headset or consoles, Grant said.

McCormack said the fee also covers going to events or the occasional celebration.

Grant said he wants to develop consistency within the RSO as well in areas like recruitment and competitive play, and he eventually wants to also have a varsity team.

“We’ve been really proactive in looking at opportunities for the students (in eSports) as it grows,” Grant said.

Eventually, Grant said a bigger goal is to be able to buy eSports varsity jerseys at the Martin Luther King Jr. University Bookstore with players’ names on the back.

“I think it would be cool if we got to the point where we had varsity teams and enough of a streaming (presence) that alumni could come back here and buy a varsity eSports jersey,” Grant said.

In the end, Laleian said he did this because playing video games was always an escape for him and he wanted to help other people find their escape.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]