Malia Kuo, Staff Illustrator

Elliott Taylor, Yale’s intramurals and graduate-professional recreation coordinator, is charged with a unique task this semester: integrating esports into collegiate intramurals.

While esports have been popular amongst members of the Yale community for years, they were first introduced into the intramural program last spring following Yale’s shift to remote learning. The results of esports tournaments do not count towards the Tyng Cup standings. But as Yale experiments with its first online fall semester, Taylor and the Yale Esports Club are working to further incorporate esports into intramurals and the Sports and Recreation department.

“This is a new way to engage the broader Yale community and allow them to compete head-to-head in a campus-wide activity that wouldn’t normally be available,” Taylor said. “While esports lacks the physical aspect of traditional intramurals, they still promote social interaction between all Yale community members.”

To accommodate a diverse pool of participants, Taylor said the intramural program is offering monthly tournaments for a variety of games on five different platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC and mobile phone. In September, competitors played Mario Kart, Words with Friends and League of Legends. This October, intramurals are hosting esports competitions in FIFA, Super Smash Bros., Hearthstone and mobile chess, while November will bring Rocket League and Clash Royale.

Taylor said the Undergraduate and Graduate-Professional Intramural programs, Yale Esports Club and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have launched a collaborative effort to publicize the program. Traditionally, intramurals have been split into an undergraduate and graduate-professional program. But with new changes, Taylor said undergraduates can play against graduate and professional school students, faculty, staff and alumni in the intramural esports league. 

According to Taylor, the program has already received a significant amount of positive feedback. And although it was created in a lack of other sporting activities, the program is not intended solely as a pandemic novelty. Even when traditional intramural programs and recreational activities resume, Taylor plans to continue organizing leagues based on interest. 

As it stands currently, students can participate in esports from anywhere. Tournaments are hosted at a specific time, but participants are matched with opponents and given a week to complete their matches, creating flexibility for students competing across time zones or trying to fit a recreational outlet into their busy schedules. 

“We are working towards increasingly legitimizing the Esports Club on campus,” said Yale Esports Club co-founder Lucy Liu ’21, who is also a former staffer at the News. “In the meantime, personally, I’m very excited to see how esports can rise to the occasion this semester to bring students together virtually, both through our club and the IM program.”

Liu founded the club along with classmates Jeffrey Zhou ’21 and Ethan Williams ’21 in their first year at Yale. They realized that although many students greatly enjoyed playing games together through online platforms, there was no formal club for esports on campus. When the pandemic hit and most in-person functions were shut down, esports had the unique potential to bring people together in a time when human connection was desperately needed.

“We knew the interest was there and we wanted to create a community where gamers of all levels could come together in a friendly, welcoming and competitive space,” Liu said. “This semester, we want to continue that work [and keep] bringing students together through gaming. Our members are scattered all over the world due to remote learning, but luckily we can still easily connect with each other online.”

Over the past two years, the Esports Club has grown and expanded to include a diversity of games, a variety of events and a large member base with different levels of interest. Competitions in an Esports Club tournament range from casual rounds of Mario Kart and Words with Friends to more competitive sessions of League of Legends.

Last spring, the Esports Club broke new ground in launching its first 12-hour Ivy League+ League of Legends Tournament charity stream, which included participants from the Ivy League and other colleges. The team worked diligently to promote the event and over $16,000 of donations poured in from a variety of students who logged on to watch as well as a handful of professional sponsors. The donations raised ultimately went to COVID-19 relief efforts, and Liu and the other co-founders believe that the club has the potential to host similar events in the future.

“It was a very rewarding experience working with our peers in the Ivy League on the charity stream last spring,” Liu said. “We partnered with various professional esports organizations such as TSM, Team Liquid, and Flyquest, and we’d love to continue those relationships this school year. “

COVID-19 has greatly expanded the possibilities for esports at Yale. A variety of events are hosted on the Esports Club Discord server for students to come together and play casually, including new mobile games like Among Us, which has become exceptionally popular over the past few months.

Recently, the Esports Club has also assisted in the introduction of esports to intramurals.

“The club is dedicated [in our efforts with IMs] to developing and promoting an environment at Yale for students to explore their interests in the internationally growing esports community in an inclusive and supportive environment,” Esports Club officer Ariel Zhang ’22 said. “We’ve been working closely with Yale Clubs and Sports and Recreation to help host, organize and run their esports intramural games.”

In the spring, the Yale Esports Club hopes to expand into a greater number of games —  including Valorant and Dota — to satisfy more students’ interests while also working to form a lasting relationship with the intramural community. 

Timothy Dwight College currently sits atop the Tyng Cup standings.

Andrew Bellah | bellah.bellah@yale.edu

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu

EMILY TIAN
ANDREW BELLAH