By Atara Shields
The grand finals of the largest international collegiate eSports league in the world are coming up, and Ryerson has home-court advantage.
The finals of the Collegiate Starleague (CSL), where hundreds of schools across North America join in competitive video gaming over the season, will take place in Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto from May 12-14.
“It’s nice that we were able to do the events here,” said Theresa Gaffney, the editor-in-chief at CSL. “It would be nice to see a hometown team win.”
In 2009, when CSL was founded, the league ran a single tournament with about 25 schools participating.
“It just caught on,” said Gaffney. “The first season was small, but the second season was twice as big, and it just kept growing exponentially.”
This year, the league’s eighth season, more than 1,500 teams representing 900 schools competed in various title games under the CSL banner.
At the grand finals, the season will end with a bang.
Four tournaments will be played over the course of three days, with teams competing for victory in four games: StarCraft II, Dota 2, CounterStrike: Global Offensive and League of Legends.
CSL is expecting hundreds of spectators.
“I’m definitely interested in seeing the most interesting outcome,” said Gaffney. “I think there are a couple of teams that haven’t been around in our finals that I’m interested in seeing how they come out.”
Ryerson is entered in the League of Legends invitational, a tournament solely for the four Canadian teams CSL asked to participate. The official University League of Legends finals—organized by Riot Games—will take place later in May.
Gaffney said she has a lot of respect for Canadian collegiate eSports teams, adding that many Canadian teams have been successful in the league.
“[University of British Columbia] is the most dominant force in collegiate eSports,” she said.
UBC also happens to be the team Ryerson will be playing in their opening game.
Mirela Tsvetkova, an incoming psychology student at Ryerson and the manager of the school’s League of Legends eSports team, will be coaching the school’s five-player team through the tournament.
“[We have] a lot of determination,” Tsvetkova said of her team. “Being the underdogs or ‘weakest’ team really motivates us to beat the other teams and prove ourselves.”
Though they were eliminated earlier in the season by the University of Ottawa, Ryerson’s eSports team accepted CSL’s invitation to participate in what Gaffney described as “a show-match for Canada.”
“In the invitational, Ryerson is kind of like a dark horse, I would say,” said Gaffney. “But I think they have a shot.”
With the venue close in proximity to Ryerson, Tsvetkova is optimistic that many of the people who expressed interest in supporting the team will be able to come and watch.
Tsvetkova said she doesn’t know what her team will receive if they win, but didn’t seem too worried about prizes.
“I think we’re competing for $5,000,” she said.
Indeed, according to Gaffney, five grand is up for grabs, in addition to “glory.”
Win or lose, the Ryerson team will begin its new season in September with tryouts. After that, they’re aiming for the ultimate eSports glory.
“We’ll make sure we have the best players,” Tsvetkova said. “And hopefully, we win [the official tournament].”
For now, they’re just trying to get past UBC.
Ryerson’s match against UBC is at 4:15 p.m. on Friday.