The Grand Valley State University Esports Club is hosting the Davenport University Esports team to celebrate the grand opening of the Laker Esports Center (LEC) on Tuesday, Jan. 18. The two clubs will face off at the LEC, located in the basement of the Kirkhof Center, and compete in an exhibition Rocket League match. President Mantella will attend the event and make remarks.
The Esports Club, which is composed of casual and competitive esports teams, has seen growth in several areas over the past year, the most notable being the structure of the club. Esports Coordinator Chris Bilski, who arrived at GVSU in October, has been focused on organizing the many esports clubs on campus into one cohesive group.
“It was a bit scattered before I came here, and since I have, the clubs have all unified under one esports club and moving forward, we’re cleaning up a lot of the things that were a bit messy surrounding esports here on campus,” Bilski said.
Bilski, who has worked in esports since 2016, was the Director of Esports at Muskingum University where he led the team to two ECAC Championships. He was also a part of the 2020 Collegiate League of Legends Selection Committee and brings consulting experience from working with other high schools and universities.
“The students finally have somebody who has experience in building and managing esports programs, so they finally have an ally on campus,” Bilski said. “They have somebody that they can turn to for help and questions, so I’m here to help and support them.”
Second-year student Ryan Forman, who is a member of the Rocket League club’s A Team, joined the club before Bilski’s arrival. He spoke about how special the program already was when he joined in 2020.
“When I was looking for colleges, I was actually being actively recruited for esports,” Forman said. “I was enticed to see what kind of program was held at GV. It was a club at the time, but I was able to join the Discord and meet the people in the club. I loved many of the connections that I had made, and since then I’ve participated.”
Forman said Bilski has played a big role in the legitimizing of competitive Rocket League at GVSU and has helped the team take their abilities to the next level.
“Coach Bilski established a varsity team and has been planning competitive LAN events for us,” Forman said. “Along with this, he has set up coaching for us. The Rocket League team in general has grown dramatically. Every player has improved greatly, including myself. The players in the program build off each other and many of us have coached and/or helped with replay reviews and practicing together.”
Forman and his teammates have experience playing against other collegiate teams and even professional Rocket League players, but he knows they can still improve. The upcoming match against Davenport is another opportunity for them to dial in their skills.
“I know we have the potential to beat the upper-tier teams in the future,” Forman said. “We can definitely compete with some top teams, but with the lack of experience and coaching currently, it would be difficult to win against them consistently. We have been practicing a lot and we plan to set up scrimmages this week before the Davenport match.”
The Davenport match is the first in-person event being held at the LEC, and it’s arguably the most important event in the Esports Club’s history. The match will be open to the public so students can come and experience competitive esports on campus for the first time. Bilski sees the match and the opening of the LEC as the start of a new chapter for the club.
“This is that first moment you’ll hang on the wall of the Laker Esports Center for where esports is and where it’s going,” Bilski said. “This is the beginning of what GVSU esports looks like here on campus.”
The match is not the only in-person event being held this year, though. Bilski has been coordinating with other universities to put together matches for GVSU’s competitive teams that will take place at the LEC, but there is also potential for the club to travel to other universities to compete.
“We have multiple competitive opportunities for our students in the works,” Bilski said. “I’m working on an event with Western Michigan where it would be kind of a home-and-home type event. I’m also working on getting our teams to an event in Indiana where they would compete against multiple other schools, kind of a battle of Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, a tri-state clash.”
For more information about the Esports Club and how to join a team, visit www.gvesports.org.