Catching Up With Hornets Esports

By Dominick Matarese |

SUNY Broome Esports logo, courtesy of the SUNY Broome Twitter account (@sunybroome)

The SUNY Broome Esports team has ended their Overwatch season with a close 3-1 win against Fort Scott Community College. The Fulcrum sat down with the team to reflect on how the Fall 2020 semester had gone for them.

Players were asked about why they joined the team. Freshmen Benjamin Saunders said: “This is the only way i could get a social experience and not feel like campus was a void place. I’d go in there and just leave and I’d feel hollow, and now I have purpose.” Sophomore Michael Willard said: “For me, the reason I joined was because I want to see Esports become more prominent as a sport just in all colleges, and by getting it going in even a community college like this we’re already having it in smaller areas. And it’s fun, you know, it’s Overwatch, it’s a game that we all enjoy and can play together and it’s a great social experience.”

When asked about how he thinks having an Esports team affects SUNY Broome, Head Esports Coach Nigel Deakin said: “I think that it’s a really good move to have an Esports team at any college, only because that is one of the main directions that sports is headed towards, especially during a period like this where people aren’t allowed to go to actual sporting events.” and also commented on what he perceives as a richer experience on campus, saying: “It helps build up another community that can attract students, and can make students that are already here have an interest in some extracurriculars, and if they happen to join the team they can learn a lot from it” He said that being on an Esports team helps build team building and communication skills.

As for the culture on the team, Saunders said: “Being funny seems to be a big theme with us and I highly appreciate that. We are very friendly with each other, everyone gets along very fast I would say. When I first joined the team I was scared shitless of everybody on the team, and now I have the privilege to say they’re my friends.” Deakin said the team’s attitude is usually positive even in the face of adversity, saying: “When we win, it’s usually very jovial, everyones having a great time, we’re throwing out the memes. When we lose it’s a little more solemn but we try to keep the team positive enough to learn from whatever happened.” He said after a bad loss the team frequently will play games with each other as different heroes (characters in Overwatch) than they normally play to help mix things up and take their mind off of it.

After their final match of the season, players were asked how they felt the team had improved. Team Captain Linares Lynette happily replied: “Poggers dude! We’ve improved so much, you don’t even know!” She said that the team had improved with every match, saying: “We’ve improved very much, I think everyone has just been playing better and better every time.”

For goals of the team going forward into the Spring 2020 semester, Lynette said: “I have a goal, if we do get most of the team back together, we are going to make playoffs, I swear.” Deakin said he hoped to recruit more student athletes, and hopefully get enough players to expand into other games. He did believe that the team would continue to focus on Overwatch. He hoped the relaxed eligibility requirements under the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) meant that they would see both new faces, and returning players from previous semesters, and said: “We would love to put SUNY Broome on the map as a school that’s recognized for its Esports program, thats a larger goal that we have and I think that this semester has been a really great first step into that world.”

When asked about his role as Head Coach, and the role of the Associate Coach Jeremy Isabella, Deakin said: “Our roles as coaches, we are here to guide the team make sure that they know what they’re doing, make sure they can work together, focus on things that we see in game that they might need to either improve on or just focus on a little bit more to just build up a little more confidence in it. And we just want to make sure that they are ready to play games with each other and with other schools. We would love for them to win but we want them more to just feel successful and feel like part of a team”

When asked about how COVID-19 has affected the team, Deakin noted that being online creates a different dynamic than meeting in person, saying: “It was like a moral change. Playing all online has made it more difficult for us to have some of the synergies, because I don’t think a lot of our team knows each other that well compared to when we were all meeting together the team they knew each other” Associate Coach Jeremy Isabella agreed, saying: “I think meeting in person allows for much more connection between the players. Just something about being in the same room together and seeing each other and just hanging out with each other in between the games. I think it builds more of a comradery” There was only one returning player from the previous semester, Team Captain Linares Lynette. The team was provided jerseys through the Athletics Department at the end of the Spring 2019 semester, but were not able to distribute them this semester due to the pandemic. 

This semester is the first with the team as a member of NJCAA Esports which is the governing association of community college, state college and junior college athletics throughout the United States. The NJCAA sets up games between competing schools, as well as coordinating what teams play against each other in the regular season, and how playoffs work. As a member of the NJCAA, the team is able to play against schools from around the country. Deakin said they competed against schools from many other states such as Illinois, Idaho, and Michigan.

When asked, Deakin said that him and the players had noticed a slight skill discrepancy in the teams they faced this season, saying; “Every game that we’ve played has either been a 3-0 for or against us.” “It was either we couldn’t do anything to stop them, or we were unstoppable”. Players remarked after their final match against FSCC that it was the closest they had played all season, which was satisfying for them.

SUNY Broomes team roster was slimmed down this semester due to NJCAA restrictions.  Deakin said; “We hit a handful of hiccups with recruiting because of the NJCAAE’s eligibility requirements, which was 12 credit hours passed in [a player’s] last full time semester as well as enrolled in 12 in their current semester.” For the spring 2020 semester however, the NJCAA has lowered the eligibility requirements to 6 credits for the previous semester, and 6 credits for the current semester. Deakin said he suspected this to allow some returning faces to compete with the team in the spring.

The SUNY Broome Esports team offers other games such as Rocket League, Madden, and Super Smash Bros, but due to the size of the team they were not able to compete in these games and instead opted to focus solely on Overwatch.

The NJCAAE also offers games like Call of Duty, Valorant, Counter Strike, and Rainbow Six Siege. However SUNY Broome administration came to an agreement with the team that they would not play these games so as not to promote “real world violence.” Deakin said; “We just want to make sure that we’re not promoting anything the school doesn’t support, and the idea of supporting real world violence is really not what SUNY Broome wants to do” but noted that; “We had a lot of students that were kind of upset about that, understandably, because those were the games they wanted to play.”

The team was provided with various parts used to assemble their computers in the Spring 2019 semester, which are kept in the Esports Arena room in the Business Building on campus. Deakin said that thankfully the players were already avid gamers so everyone on the team had computers which could run Overwatch, but said that some players had internet issues.

Esports at SUNY Broome began as a club before becoming an official part of the athletics department in the spring 2019 semester. However, Deakin said they weren’t able to keep the club active for the fall 2020 semester, and said it was due to not being able to meet in person. Previously the club had weekly meeting times where people could hang out and play games, which was nixed after the COVID-19 pandemic came to the area. He is hoping to bring the club back to life when campus activity is back to normal. 

The team streams all of their matches against other schools on the streaming service Twitch. Deakin said: “We usually have some very enthusiastic fans who are coming out there to show their support for the hornets, and cheer on their favorite players, so we like to see that.”

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