University esports: how to get involved

Competitive gaming at university is a great way to make friends and represent your university on the national stage and may even lead to a coveted career in the gaming industry.

University can be an intimidating place; there’s huge pressure to make new friends, and to get involved in societies and sport activities. For video game enthusiasts attending for university for the first time, game societies, and university esports leagues are a great way to start.

There are two national esports leagues specifically for university students: National Student Esports (NSE), and the National University Esports League (NUEL.) The players battling it out in the league tables range from semi-professionals, going for the top positions, to teams of casual (and occasionally tipsy) players that avoid taking the game seriously at all costs. It all contributes to the national leader-boards that earn your university special prizes for reaching the top.

Far from being a niche idea, esports is now recognised officially in the UK. NSE is affiliated to BUCS,the sports association that manages all university sports in the UK, which means that playing Esports for your university will help it rise in the national sporting league tables, traditionally dominated by sports like rowing, rugby or athletics. And participation in university esports is also completely free; a far cry from the £60 payments that are often demanded by other sports teams.

For the vast majority of players who compete in university esports, though, the enjoyment comes from playing video games more seriously with friends. University esports mean that players can take a hobby they’ve pursued in their bedrooms, and turn it into a way to socialise, compete, and, potentially, to get a job in gaming.

Playing with a university team is often the best way to experience your favourite games. You get to communicate within a good team, and you don’t run the risk of being paired up with rude or unhelpful players, which can ruin a gaming session. Students who are part of the esports team can learn and practise with each other across many matches, rather than having to quickly integrate with a group of people from all around the world thrown together via matchmaking.

Large gaming societies at university, like York’s FragSoc, now run regular social events, where players can physically meet up and play couch co-op or board games. The society also supports casual game nights to get more people turning up.

For a lucky few, university esports can even drive career progression. League of Legends commentatorAndy ‘Vedius’ Day first found success commentating for the NUEL. Equally, numerous match referees for League of Legends, Valorant, and CS:GO first gained experience organising tournaments at university level.

The National Student Esports (NSE) has been trying to make the route into an esports career more practical, with programmes like Intel FutureGen, which aims to give industry wannabees the opportunity to build skills and to network with some of the industry’s most well-known figures. They also run frequent competitions around game development, journalism, and broadcasting that help highlight potential career paths for students.

Esports is a growing industry, and although esports degrees have only just begun in the UK, they may soon be a viable option for students wanting to combine their gaming passion with their future career prospects.

Without all the recent ‘professionalism’ around it, gaming at university remains a great way to socialise and the relationships you forge playing in voluntary university esports competitions will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Recommended Links: - University of York’s FragSoc - National Student E-Sports