University of Guelph Athletics has found a way to keep competition alive despite COVID-19 physical distancing measures by launching eSport tournaments.

With the aim of keeping students connected during the pandemic, Athletics began investing in eSport opportunities in the spring by running regular tournaments. Given its success, the department plans to continue to run tournaments throughout the summer and into the fall.

“By offering this online programming, we have found a way to keep students connected to each other,” said Justin Toth, sport programming. “It provides a way for them to have a little friendly competition with their peers.”

It has also been a nice way of engaging student players and spectators given the absence of live professional sports, Toth added.

Participants battle it out in games such as Fortnite, League of Nations, NHL20, NBA2K20, FIFA20, Super Smash Brothers Unlimited and others.

Athletics ran a focus group of current students and conducted surveys to develop the best approach. In May, the first U of G eSports tournament was launched, attracting 50 participants to play NHL20. Demand steadily increased in June with 10 tournaments held, bringing together 78 teams of 120 participants. Games have continued into the summer.

Toth said other Ontario universities have inquired about the U of G program and sought advice on how to create their own. Many have followed U of G’s lead.

Isaac McCutcheon, a second-year marketing management student, said that as the academic year came to an end in the spring, he looked for a way to stay engaged in competition and interact with friends.

“The eSports tournament is a great way to try something new and keep us entertained,” he said.

As someone who enjoys both sports and eSports, third-year biochemistry student Samuel Thompson appreciates the chance to participate in the games during the pandemic.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea.”

To learn more about what the U of G student experience will look like this fall, visit the Virtual Campus page.


Justin Toth