Esports on the rise; a new team forms


Feature photo by Camryn DeVore

Ryan Choe

[dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]W[/dropcap]hile playing the online multiplayer video game League of Legends, junior Tim Rhodenbaugh casts multiple spells and enchantments, beats enemy minions and attempts multiple knockout combo attacks. He says playing in the heat of battle after a day booked with schoolwork and cross country is a way to channel his frustrations toward the gameplay on the battlefield.
“I started playing League [of Legends] about six years ago,” Rhodenbaugh said. “That’s the only [game] that I play for Esports, [which are] competitive multiplayer video games.”
Rodenbaugh says League of Legends is easy to follow, and because of the popularity of the game, he has found himself often playing with his friends. The game is especially fun and freeing for Rhodenbaugh after his cross country practices and meets.
“There is no [designated] time; you just get on and see who else is on,” Rhodenbaugh said. “People you can play with are almost always on, and it’s on the computer so you just do it from your home.”
Since League of Legends came out in 2009 by Riot games, an American video game developer, it’s popularity has exploded internationally. In 2014 Forbes Magazine revealed that up to 27 million people play League of Legends daily and up to 67 million people play monthly. A part of why the game has become so popular is because Riot games pushed for an Esports professional league for the League of Legends game. The company was successful and made the professional competitions into a legitimate sport.
The rise of major Esports stars such as Bjergsen, Doublelift and Faker helped further increasing the exposure of the game by streaming on Twitch, a live streaming video platform, and spreading the word about League of Legends. Incentives and rewards come in the form of millions of dollars, which also draws out competitors.
Rhodenbaugh’s interest and skill in League of Legends led him to join RBHS’ first Esports team, which was formed in September. Led by Esports head coach Kyle Reznicek, Rhodenbaugh decided to sign up to play and see how he compared to other players at RBHS. The prospect of taking a hobby to competition was more than enough to convince Rhodenbaugh to sign up for the Esports team.
Reznicek himself has been playing Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) video games since he was two years old. Ever since he began playing (NES) games, like Super Mario Bros, they still have had a ton of sentimental value for him. During Reznicek’s college years, his brother in law showed him how to play League of Legends for the first time. On top of his familiarity with League of Legends, Reznicek believed the notion of gathering a bunch of kids together to share a valuable experience seemed like a good use of his time.
“Video games are so much more than people give them credit for,” Reznicek said. “Gamers are one of the best communities out there.”
“This past August, [RBHS athletics director] David Egan walked down to my classroom during biology one day,” Reznicek said. “He asked me if I would be interested in potentially sponsoring the Esports team, in which I replied yes and asked him to give my email [to the coordinators].”
Within the week, Reznicek was contacted via email by Ben Brooks and Joe Chee of Ukatsu. A local company in Columbia, Ukatsu is centered around providing live, social and competitive video game experiences for kids in Columbia. Ukatsu is officially a partner with Columbia Public Schools (CPS) and helped form established the RBHS ESports program.
After exchanging brief emails about the goal of the program, Reznicek met with Hickman High school (HHS) Esports sponsor, Alex Soper, along with Brooks and Chee from Ukatsu.
It was at that meeting where Reznicek found out CPS organized an exhibition match between the Rock Bridge and Hickman Esports teams in an exhibition match on Sept. 8th. Reznicek realized he would have just 12 days to prepare for the match after the meeting.
Despite a hard fought battle, the Rock Bridge the opening loss, 0-2, the team was excited to improve their skill and coordination so they could perform better in future competitions. Reznicek said he tries to continue to motivate the team by playing League of Legends with the team members once a week. He says he was proud how well the team was able to come together on a crunched time schedule. Reznicek continues to use “raw, unbridled enthusiasm” as a way to keep the team motivated and amped up, as well as having fun and learning new tips from each other.
“I’m a 29-year veteran [to the team], and try to inspire the team by playing [games] with them online,” Reznicek said. “I try my best to get on our server and participate [in battles]. Yes, I make announcements and schedule meetings, but I also try to discuss League of Legends, the most effective tactic available, ask questions in our channel, and most importantly play the game.”
Reznicek also attempts to organize scrimmages with the team members and for him, this is where team captains rise up and help him. Senior and team captain Jeffrey Mullen helps keep the members unified under Reznicek.
For Mullen being a captain has made him feel more responsible and assume a role of leadership. He and fellow senior Justin Zhang help keep the team and sport fun and involving for all members.
“Being a leader means making sure everyone is doing their job and does all the little things here and there to support everyone,” Mullen said. “I also help [Coach Reznicek] organize scrimmages with Ukatsu and other high schools [during] our free time.”
Mullen says when everyone collaborates together and share good tips, then the whole team can get on the same page. The little things like offering encouragement during practice, discussing the most effective tactics and accepting the role on the team helps everyone become better teammates.
When playing League of Legends, Mullen mans the Jungle role, which roams around the battlefield map and aids who needs to sit during enemy encounters. Mullen explains how his role and the team chemistry affects the team’s success.
“Basically it’s a team of five that works together in harmony to outwit the other team and beat them by destroying their nexus [base],” Mullen said. “To win, you have to outwit and kill the other team members.”
Reznicek’s number one priority right now is on-site practices. Practices are held Thursdays at 4:15 pm in room 245 and he said the team welcome to all students who are interested. He said that support from the district and RBHS tech specialist Jeremy Young has been incredibly helpful in speeding up the formation of the RBHS Esports team, and for that he is truly thankful.
“I truly love video games and game culture, especially online games,” Reznicek said. “It is obvious to anyone who talks to me about games that I’m passionate and know my stuff and I am really looking forward to a great year. I don’t even belong on the same map as most of [the team members], but they’ve been really nice to me and even taught me as they [have] pummeled me mercilessly.”
What is your favorite Esport? Tell us in the comments below.