Esports or competitive gaming is relatively a new endeavour as it rose to popularity during the 2010s. The number and scope of tournaments has increased significantly, going from about 10 tournaments in 2000 to about 260 in 2010 despite being established before the 21st century.
One of the more popular video games played by esport tournaments is League of Legends or LoL. It is is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games. It is especially prominent here in the Philippines as there several active Filipinos playing the game. With that in mind, Garena, publisher of LoL for Southeast Asia, capitalize on the opportunity of formulating tournaments throughout the country.
Garena hosts the LoL Collegiate League PH where different colleges face each other in the League of Legends Varsity League or LVL. The colleges participating in the tournament are the following: AMA University, Bulacan State University, Far Eastern University-IT, Malayan Colleges Laguna, iACADEMY, Technological University of the Philippines, University of the Philippines-Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, and last and definitely not least, De La Salle University-Manila.
With the growth of competitive video gaming in the Philippines showing no signs of slowing down, The LaSallian interviewed several players from DLSU Viridius Arcus and other students who are competing in other tournaments in the country to reflect on the careers as esports athletes.
The Philippine League of Legends competitive scene started as early as 2011. This was a time where Philippine esports was slowly developing. A time where pocket tournaments were played in internet cafes and a time where sponsors were reluctant to make investments in the competitive esports scene.
Kurt Cristobal, also known as “Rebengga” in-game, is one of the pioneers of competitive League of Legends in the Philippines. He is currently the starting Jungler for Team Red, which is now competing for a spot in Globe Conquerors Manila, a qualifying tournament for the Play-in stages of the Season 8 World Championship.
He started playing the game right after it was released in 2011 and was highly ranked enough to kickstart his competitive career. He and his friends then went on to small teams such as SFC and Bida Gaming in hopes to represent the pride of the Philippines in the early stages of competitive LoL. He then found a solid foundation when he joined the Manila Eagles, a team which was sponsored by Garena itself to form part of the Southeast Asian league called Garena Premier League. The Computer Science major found solace when he joined Team Exile, whcih later won Rampage 2013 to represent the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Qualifiers for the Season 3 World Championship group stages. The veteran then continued to go on and compete in various domestic and regional leagues under different teams like Naga Esports and Team Red.
For Cristobal, the sky’s the limit when it comes to his goal setting, even if he is still just a student. “Set your goal to be the best and use it as your motivation to succeed.” He used this as a mantra to power through tough times as a string of setbacks has plagued the Philippine scene as it failed to qualify through numerous tournaments throughout the years. “What keeps me going despite all the setbacks is my passion for the game and the dream to become a professional gamer.”
Domestic success is a good start, but it does not end there. Across Asia and the world, these players will have to face tougher opponents from different regions. South Korea, for example, is called the Mecca of esports as they are continually bagging first place in various tournaments, most notably the World Championship. This was made possible due to infrastructure and cultural aspects which affected their talent. Cristobal thinks that for the Philippines to be as successful as South Korea, the same has to be done to improve as a region. “The best way for us to succeed in international tournaments is for the players to improve on their attitude and infrastructure where the players can focus on the game.”
For some, it is a dream to be involved in the esports scene as it is considered fresh under the public eye. But the road to being a professional gamer is not always smooth sailing. Numerous professional players have come and had an abrupt end. Achieving longevity will not just require heavy lifting but sheer determination and constant practice. His advice for those who are aspiring to be professional players is to enjoy the process and play to improve always.
Under the banner
The DLSU Viridus Arcus is currently the only team that is representing the Green-and-White in the esports scene. The roots of the team name “Viridis Arcus” came from the Latin term of “Green Archers”. The team has also tasted success as they won the LCL 2017 Metro West Championship.
The seven-man roster consists of Ray “Karna” Lamdagan in the Top Lane, Hiro “Esperer” Kobayashi in the Jungle, Derick “Spring” Cubangbang in the Mid Lane, the Bottom Lane duo of Earl “Comte” Medina and Adrian “Ventus” Tolentino as the AD Carry and Support respectively, and their back-up AD Carry and Support Neil “Mirmoooo” Gabriel and Carlo “Pilyo” Mijares accordingly.
One of the main problems the team faces is the balancing of time between academics and practice playing the game. The players discussed that how it was initially difficult for them to adjust their schedules as there were additional factors that caused problems such as feeling tired after classes end, commuting to DLSU and vice-versa, and family.
Despite these obstacles, the players were able to adjust accordingly with the demands of being a student-athlete. Viridis Arcus conducts their practices everyday training at night during weekdays to ensure that they have ample time to focus on the completion of their academic duties as a La Salle student.
Being an esports athlete has its benefits as the prestige of representing the school is visible. The once distant dream has now become a reality. However, there are hidden challenges to being a DLSU student athlete, such as the pressure to achieve success and minimize the instances of failure.
Gabriel shares “Being a pro gamer is really hard especially when you have other priorities in life like studying and wanting to graduate early without delays.”
Raise the Puppy
While DLSU Viridus Arcus excels in competitions within the collegiate league, Neil “Mirmoooo” Gabriel has his eyes on the prize at the national level of league. The third year Business Management major plays at the highest level of the competition as an AD Carry for Emperor Esports, a team competing for a spot in the Regional Qualifiers for the Season Eight World Championship.
The road to victory may be long and harsh, but for him, his inspiration comes from representing the schools name in the competition as it shows that he can balance his studies and his career.
As one of the key players of his team, pressure will always be present in all kinds of situations. For him, the pressure comes from synergizing as a team since he is one of the vocal players which inspire his team’s morale and rallies them to victory. His fire to succeed comes not from the prize money won, but the level of competition he has experienced. “My dream is to play at the World Championship and hopefully face the best player in the world ‘Faker’.”
Given that the nature of an esports career is not highly attributed to longevity, Gabriel hopes to remain in the scene for a long time as he loves the game. As long as his fire never wavers, he will go on and continue to play at the highest level.