The Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC) took place last weekend in Houston, TX. This featured, among many other things, the electrifying quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the Overwatch tournament. To get a better sense of what the weekend was like, The Game Haus has begun an Inside the CEC series where players and coaches from each of the eight finalists will be interviewed, as well as casters and hosting organizations of the event.
The first interview in the series comes from tournament underdog, Orange Coast College, who managed to defeat Grand Canyon University in the quarterfinals before falling to the University of Utah in the semifinals. The Game Haus sat down with their vocal leader and DPS player, slayergramps, to find out what it meant to make it to the final eight and what this event means for the future of collegiate esports.
First off, looking back, what was your favorite part of the event?
Definitely winning our Friday match against GCU. It was a culmination of research and preparation for a match we knew would be very winnable, but difficult. Winning on stage next to everyone and being able to high five and see everyone’s smiles was a new experience and something I’ll never forget. I feel kind of bad that 4 out of the 8 teams that went to Houston last weekend won’t get to experience that feeling, but I’m very thankful and proud of my team for earning that feeling.
On the flip side, what was the biggest challenge or what pushed you the most?
As most teams and the casters saw, we struggled with flexibility. We just didn’t have the time to have multiple strategies ready in our pockets. Our players were limited in hero pools and had a wide range of skill disparity that we built around. If we didn’t focus on our strengths as players, I don’t think we would have made it as far as we did. Even teams that we knew were less skilled than us would destroy us on GOATS vs GOATS.
So, we started brainstorming on strategies that met two requirements: 1. It caters to our strengths and allows everyone to play a hero they’re comfortable on, and 2. It can beat GOATS. We’ve only ever had one or two scrim blocks a week, but we slowly built our synergies and became more knowledgeable on how to play our comp against various strategies. Bunker comp was something we didn’t have much practice against. *laughs*
Having spent much of your collegiate esports career likely playing remotely, what was it like playing in front of a crowd and right next to your opposing team?
It was very satisfying to finally have that experience after playing competitive Overwatch for so long. I felt very comfortable playing on stage. The only factors that I think affected me were having to get used to the next desk, which I bumped my hand on a few times when whipping my mouse. I didn’t really think about the opposing team while I was there.
What has this experience done to bond your team? What does it mean to have made it to the final 8 and to Houston, being perhaps the most grassroots of all the teams in the finals?
I don’t think one player on our team is upset we lost. We reached our goals and exceeded our expectations as a team and I think we threw the collegiate esports system for a loop in the process. We joke about how we, a random community college team of friends, finished at the same place in the standings as Maryville, arguably the most funded and supported team in the whole tournament. I wouldn’t be surprised if team managers are a little bit more careful about how they build and manage future collegiate esports teams given our success. I think we proved it doesn’t take a lot of support or practice for a team to succeed, as long as they have the right players, synergies, and strategies.
Has Orange Coast supported you all since the event? Do you think they’ll continue to have a strong esports program?
Our school hasn’t given us any funding, but they were very supportive and excited for us when we presented the ESPN paperwork. They were more than willing to rush and get it signed quickly, allowing us to compete and represent the school. As far as a strong esports program, I’m not really sure. I think there are some people on campus who are currently campaigning to build an esports infrastructure on campus, but I’m not sure on when or how that’ll work out. In the meantime, I think most of our players on the team are going to be attending next semester and are willing to meme our way as far as we can again. We’re definitely open to the idea of new players interested in the team trying out, and seeing what kind of new talent we can bring in.
What does this event mean for collegiate Overwatch, and esports in general, moving forward?
The production value was pretty wild. I think it’s a big deal if events like this happen yearly, promoting collegiate esports, and esports as a whole. I’ve heard talks that the tier 3 scene is going to become the Collegiate scene, which would be pretty cool. After spending two years in T3, I know how much of a sacrifice it can be. Merging T3 with collegiate and giving players a degree to fall back on, I think, would benefit both the scene and the players.
Lastly, any parting words or people you want to thank?
I think I said pretty much all there is to say. Big thank you goes to SpeakEasyOW, who volunteered to be our coach after seeing our potential in the fall and has come all this way with us, and flew out to Houston and hung out with us. I’m glad his investment resulted in an unforgettable experience for himself and the whole team.
To keep up with slayergramps, check out his Twitch channel and shoot him a follow on Twitter. Stay tuned for continued coverage from the Inside the CEC series here, at The Game Haus.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images
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