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Logging into eSports: Big changes coming to Dalhousie’s gaming community

By Alexandra Sweny

The Dalhousie eSports society is respawning.

After not being active since the fall of 2014, Kaylin Dean, a Dalhousie theatre student is hoping to channel the university’s passion for gaming into a healthy and vigorous society.

“This year, I came back thinking ‘I know what I’m doing, and I’m going to do this thing’,” said Dean.

eSports is short for ‘electronic sports’ and encompasses everything from real-time strategy games and first-person shooter games, to multiplayer online battle arenas. While these descriptors may not mean much outside of the gaming community, the games themselves are almost household names: Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Dota 2 all fall within the realm of eSports.

The Dalhousie eSports Society (DeSS) has existed for over a decade and boasts 491 members on its Facebook page; but since the previous president’s graduation Dean says the society “sort of fell out of existence”.

After posting publicly in the group that she was willing to lead the society this year, Dean is now running for society president and says she had several previous members reach out with advice and support.

Along with a partner running for treasurer, Dean has researched the community both within Dal and beyond; she already has several changes in plan for the school year.

At the top of her list: changing the name of the Dalhousie eSports Society to the Dalhousie Gaming and eSports Society.

“We want to open the society up to a broader community,” she says. “People I’ve been talking to have been giving me really great feedback, like telling me they don’t know what eSports are – and that’s important, that’s something I need to be aware of.”

Dean explains that because the term eSports is still relatively new, prospective members often overlook the society because of it. By changing the name, Dean hopes students will recognize the familiar term “gaming” and be interested in learning more.

In some cases, Dean believes the language can entrench an already steep gender divide in the community. Out of the 491 members in the society, Dean says that only about seven per cent identify as female.

“Survival games, World of Warcraft as an example, are generally not considered eSports,” Dean says. “So even though those types of games are very popular with female gamers, they might not be as likely to join.”

In this sense, Dean and her partner hope renaming the society would help more female gamers become involved in the Dalhousie gaming community.

Patrick Kell, a fourth-year commerce student majoring in accounting, is one of the society’s few, currently active, members and hopes this year will help draw in new students.

“Dal is very behind the growing trend of eSports,” Kell says. “A lot of other schools have thriving eSport societies, as well as eSport teams that compete in leagues and even can earn scholarships for their school.”

That’s why this year Kell has high hopes for the society under Dean’s leadership.

“I really hope that this society can start strong again and grow year after year,” Kell says. “I know there is a large group of students at Dal interested in eSports and video games. These students currently have no place to gather and enjoy their hobby and I really hope that this society can change that.”

For the term eSports itself, Dean admits that there are numerous ways to interpret the “sports” portion of eSports.

“Some people have called them mind-sports,” she says. “There’s a lot of dexterity, quick thinking and planning involved. And if you want to play well, there’s a team aspect as well.”

She also understands why people may be hesitant to call eSports a sport.

“(Other) people think sports are sports, and that’s fair,” says Dean. “I don’t want to say it’s an athletic sport, because it’s not. But there’s that same adrenaline rush – a quick reaction or forethought can win you a game.”

Much like with other athletes, Dean says that adrenaline is what keeps gamers coming back for more, time and time again.

“Why do we keep playing? It’s so second-by-second. You have these resources in-game, and you need to be able to read the situation around you, read your teammates… It’s quick and high-stakes. You have to be smart to play.”


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