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Yale head intramural secretary Rachel Cohen ’21 announced on Friday that the program would be transitioning to an esports league, since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced students off campus for the rest of the semester.

In a Facebook post, Cohen wrote that the initiative is meant to help “community building” and to “distract” Yalies from the anxieties and stress the pandemic has induced.

“Since we will not be returning to campus this semester, the spring IM season cannot happen as planned,” Cohen said. “However, I did want to find a way to bring people together through sports, even if we are spread out across the world. IMs are a unique balance between competition and community that does not exist in other extracurriculars. Losing that for the rest of the semester would be difficult for a lot of people.”

The online league extends beyond just sports games. FIFA, Madden, 2K, Super Smash Bros, Words with Friends, online chess and Fortnite are among the games expected to start up for the rest of the semester. The wide range of games hopes to expand the base of students involved with intramurals.

Cohen added that the inclusion of mobile games is also meant to encourage more students to participate. The intramural secretaries have not clarified how they plan on sorting out the logistics of the program. Most notably, students might be playing on different consoles or own different generations of the same game.

“We’ve tried to include a range of games on different platforms, including several with mobile apps that don’t require equipment beyond a phone,” Cohen said. “I know there are a lot of people who do not have access to game consoles or who aren’t hardcore gamers. I wanted to make this league accessible to as many people as possible. We’ve had about 450 people sign up, which is encouraging.”

Cohen added that the esports league will not count towards the Tyng Cup standings and will not be a permanent part of the intramural program. Though, depending on its success, students might enjoy its addition as a noncompetitive part of the program.

Trumbull Head IM Secretary Elizabeth Calabresi ’21 wrote in an email to the community that the IM team has not made a decision with respect to the Tyng race. Given the shortened year, the decision might be made to simply vacate the championship this year. The secretaries may also decide to simply award the current leader the title.

“I applaud the IM committee for their new esports Initiative,” Phil Schneider ’23 said. “It seems to me a step in the right direction … It’s of paramount importance to retain, even strengthen, the bonds formed on the intramural field during this COVID-19 hiatus.”

But Schneider also expressed his disappointment that the intramural semester had been cut short. For him, student-athletes have been “deprived of their time in the proverbial intramural spotlight.”

Trumbull IM Secretary Hannah Foley ’23 expressed similar sentiments.

“I think the main goal with esports is preserving that sense of community that many of us lost with moving classes online,” Foley said. “The contests are informal and will not count toward Tyng Cup standings, instead they are meant to build camaraderie and foster some of that same residential college spirit from home.”

The program is scheduled to kick off in the coming days.

Nader Granmayeh | nader.granmayeh@yale.edu