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Arshdeep Singh playing Rainbow Six Siege
Arshdeep Singh, a Seneca Esports coach and a former semi-professional esports player of Rainbow Six Siege in India, likens competitive video gaming to the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. (Photo: submitted)

Sept. 24, 2020

From its roots in early video games and arcade games to today’s multibillion-dollar industry, esports has grown into a major global competitive activity.

And it’s pretty popular at Seneca too. Seneca Esports is the biggest student club at Seneca with nearly 800 members on Discord, a chat app for video gamers. Not unlike other sports clubs, it has two coaches and a manager.

“The reception has been pretty good,” said club president Steven Nguyen modestly. “We are one of the fastest growing clubs.”

 Steven Nguyen plays a game with Spencer Tang
Seneca Esports President Steven Nguyen (right) plays a game with Spencer Tang, a student in the Computer Programmer & Analysis advanced diploma program, at Newnham Campus before the pandemic. (Photo: submitted)

Mr. Nguyen founded Seneca Esports two years ago to bring different gaming activities together. Now in his final year of the Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management degree program, he has competed all over Ontario as well as Vancouver, New York and Las Vegas in the world of competitive video gaming. He’s also on the advisory committee of Seneca’s new Esports Marketing Management graduate certificate program.

“I’m passionate about esports with the goal of growing the esports scene in my local community,” he said. “By using my skills and ideas, I’m pushing Seneca to embrace esports by managing competitive teams, hosting events and engaging the community.”

Esports has also proved to be remarkably adaptable to life in a pandemic. The Seneca Esports club has been actively planning leagues and upcoming practice sessions and tournaments. This past summer, Mr. Nguyen worked with the Seneca Student Federation to create three special online tournaments for postsecondary students. The tournaments — League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers and Valorant — each attracted about 50 to 200 people.

“Since esports can be played safely during the pandemic, we want to give people a chance to participate in these competitive tournaments,” Mr. Nguyen said.

For many, video gaming is simply an opportunity to connect with others and make friends.

Arshdeep Singh is a Seneca Esports coach and a second-year Computer Engineering Technology advanced diploma student. Before he joined the club last year, when he came to Seneca as an international student, he was a semi-professional esports player of Rainbow Six Siege in India.

“Esports is not much different than regular sports in terms of how far your mental capacity can reach,” said Mr. Singh, who likens esports to the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. “It helps you a lot to interact with other players without physical contact. We are not afraid of COVID-19 transmitting during our calls on Discord. We just start talking to each other and have fun. It’s like checking in on your family and friends. My friends in Canada are my family now.”

Since joining Seneca Esports, Mr. Singh has also discovered the Indian Dance Club, of which he’s now president.

“I’ve learned so much about other student clubs at Seneca,” he said. “It has helped me become a better person.”

Likewise, Therese Frialde, an Accounting diploma program student who joined Seneca Esports in 2018, says esports has allowed her to form many connections with others with little effort on her part.

“What I enjoy the most about the club is finding like-minded people and having additional friends to play games with,” said Ms. Frialde, who has been playing video games since she was a child.

“Also, the club and esports in general have played a huge role during the pandemic in terms of bringing people together wherever they are. With physical distancing still in place, socializing doesn’t feel as difficult when there’s this hub full of people who share the same interests as you and are willing to play games with you.”