Illini Esports hosts Spring Semester LAN, invites gamers to Illini Union for competition and prizes

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Photo courtesy of Illini Esports

Members of Illini Esports compete Fall Semester LAN during the 2021 fall semester. The team will be hosting the Spring Semester LAN at the Illini Union on Saturday.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

After hosting an incredibly successful Fall Semester LAN event that saw over 300 people come to the Illini Union to compete in various video game titles for prizes, Illini Esports is putting on its long-awaited Spring Semester LAN on Saturday.

Currently a registered student organization, Illini Esports is using the success of the Fall LAN and anticipated success of this Saturday’s Spring LAN to help push competitive esports into the limelight. Illini Esports Community Director Alec Foster-Pierson, known in-game as TeddyBær, spoke on the importance of hosting these LANs in regards to pushing esports as sports to be recognized by the University.

“We just want to be that premiere collegiate organization,” TeddyBær said. “The one who is on the forefront, the one who is building these programs, doing these events to try and show the university that we want more recognition. It is something a lot of us on the admin board are really ambitious about. We want to see (esports) grow.”

Saturday will see new game titles for gamers to compete in. “Super Auto Pets” will be making its competitive debut for Illini Esports at this event, as the club invites all community members to take part in the competition. A lesser-known competitive game that has been popularized by Twitch and YouTube streamers in recent months, “Super Auto Pets” is a fresh competitive title for gamers attending the event. Returning titles at the competitive station on Saturday include “Super Smash Bros,” “Minecraft” and more. 

Additionally, the aspect of competitive speedrunning will be returning with more creative speedrun ideas. Previously, Illini Esports held speedrun competitions across multiple titles at once. As competitors complete a task in multiple different games, the person with the fastest time doing all of the tasks wins first place. 

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Cosplayers will also be well represented on Saturday as Illini Esports will be taking time between in-game competition to host a cosplay competition at 5 p.m. Cosplaying is a huge part of the gaming and esports sphere. With many Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and general online class-based games being well represented within the esports community, some gamers identify strongly with characters. Online fan favorites include Tracer from “Overwatch” and Jett from “Valorant,” both of which are likely to be seen on Saturday.

The pandemic originally put a halt on the team’s ability to produce large events like the Spring and Fall Semester LANs. Originally, Illini Esports only saw around 30 people show up to LANs just after the pandemic. The University does not provide Illini Esports with a space to operate or an arena to compete like a Division I sports program would, so TeddyBær and the admin board have taken it upon themselves to try and mimic that atmosphere with their move to the Union.

“Prior to last semester’s LAN, I think our peak was 100 people,” TeddyBær said. “So, last semester, we made sure to have a large push. We wanted tournaments there, we wanted to make sure there was advertising, we wanted it in a good place. They had previously been hosted in (the Digital Computer Library), but we wanted something more central, more accessible to as many students as we could. So, we reached out to the Union.”

The Spring Semester LAN is just days away. Illini Esports’ eventual goal of legitimizing esports as a career path and pushing for Division I esport teams has made an even bigger stride towards achieving that goal with international, professional esports organization Gen.G now sponsoring the RSO. Gen.G owns teams in many different esports, but has most recently seen success in Overwatch as their franchise team, Seoul Dynasty, placed second in the 2020 Overwatch League season.

TeddyBær’s excitement isn’t just based around competition and legitimizing esports, however, as he is looking forward to meeting his community as well.

“I think the most exciting thing is just being able to see everyone,” TeddyBær said. “It’s different gaming behind a monitor and gaming on Discord. That’s something and it is cool to spend time with people like that, but it’s really the in person events where you can make a lot of friendship connections.”

Action on Saturday will start at noon and end at 9 p.m. in the Union lower levels. The cosplay competition begins at 5 p.m.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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