University Introduces E-Sports to Intramural Options

Rocket League allows players to experience soccer in sport cars. 

The University continues to adjust during the ongoing pandemic. The University’s Office of Intramurals and Recreation has moved intramural spring sports online to keep the health of students a top priority. In past semesters, intramural sports have included sand volleyball, soccer, flag football, indoor volleyball and dodgeball. This year, students have the options of participating in Rocket League or NBA 2K20 for both PlayStation and Xbox. 

Students were able to register with their teams or join as an independent player and be added to existing teams. This spring, 30 participants have signed up for the e-sports offered.

The intramural office decided to choose Rocket League and NBA 2K20 due to popularity on and off campus. The e-sports were also able to be accommodated through the University’s network. 

“Unfortunately, there are several popular titles that we can’t offer because our network is not currently set up to accommodate Esports although campus administrators are working to alleviate some of these restrictions,” said Michael Hay, Coordinator of Aquatics, Intramurals, and Recreation

Rocket League is a popular game that brings together sports cars and soccer. Players use rocket-powered vehicles to hit a ball into their opponent’s goal. The rules of the game are the same as traditional soccer. NBA 2K20 allows players to participate in virtual basketball games using athletes from the 2020 National Basketball Association. Top ranked players include Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns.

Hay explained that the spike of cases on campus resulted in the inability to offer in-person intramural sports. However, he is hopeful that with more time and a decrease in cases, his office will be able to offer in-person sports later in the semester. The sports would have to be kept outdoors to stay in line with the University’s guidelines.

“We can possibly have some more traditional offerings with modified rulesets to accommodate social distancing restrictions,” Hay said.

The coordinator shared that one of the most difficult challenges faced when moving intramural sports online was getting students to participate and sign-up. During a regular semester, thousands of students sign up to participate in the regularly offered sports. However, due to the limitations of only two e-sports, participation took a hard hit. On the bright side, the offices were able to recognize a new sector for intramurals. Now they are working to make adjustments to the current network configuration in order to better accommodate e-sports. 

Simon Brooks, a senior in the College of Engineering, has participated in intramural sports for the past four years and been a part of the Men’s Club Volleyball team. This year, he assisted in organizing the e-sports, specifically the Rocket League teams. Brooks explained that the Villanova Gaming Society (VGS) communicated with the Intramural Offices in order to decide on format and timing for the e-sport. VGS has offered virtual tournaments in the past, and the success of these inspired the Intramural Offices to attempt virtual sports for the spring. VGS already knew what had worked and what had not during tournaments, which made organizing for the spring semester easier.

Also, the main upside to these sports is that they are essentially free. Players only have to pay for the gaming system or laptop they play on. For Rocket League, the teams are also smaller and consist of three players each. Games only take about five minutes, which allows players to engage in multiple matches over a short period of time.

Rocket League has recently become one of the most popular games online, seeing an increase in players since the pandemic’s start. International players are even able to play the game as a full-time job, due to tournaments, branding, streaming and YouTube channels.

“I got interested in the game because my roommate played during my sophomore year,” Brooks said. “Now, everyone seems to be playing it and people of all ages can participate especially during COVID.”

Brooks encourages all students to check out the game and stay informed about intramural sports. 

“You got nothing to lose,” Brooks said. “It’s free and surprisingly fun. I definitely recommend you grab a friend and try it out.”

Hay also encourages students to get involved despite changes to the intramural programs. He asks any students who have ideas for new sports to contact him or the Office of Intramural Sports. 

“I know this is a difficult time, but we will get through this together,” Hay said.