Andrew Tran poses while on a computer in the SAIT Trojans Esports Room located in the Campus Centre at SAIT in Calgary on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Tran is a former esports gamer who has attended multiple tournaments, his most notable being in Super Smash Bros Melee. (Photo by Rory Carroll/The Emery Weal)

The SAIT athletic department has invested time and energy into the development of an esports team, all at the request of SAIT students.

Calgary is still growing their esports communities, but organizations like the Alberta Esports Association (AESA), Calgary Sport and Social Club (CSSC), and SAIT have set the tone for league play.

According to a report from Insider Intelligence, eSports (short for electronic sports) is increasing in viewership, climbing from 21.1 million views in 2019 to 26.6 million in 2022 in the U.S.

Asia-Pacific, North America, and Europe make up the majority of the audience and consumers.

With the various outlets SAIT offers for videogame play, there was a desire for more.

“SAIT students were asking for it,” said Patrick Gauvreau, Wellness Centre and Student Activities Team Lead.

“There are already a number of gaming clubs on campus, there are excellent options already. However, we were really looking to push this towards the next logical step: Trojans collegiate varsity competition.”

The SAIT esports program launched in January 2022.

Esports Team Play

Andrew Tran poses in the SAIT Trojans Esports Room located in Campus Centre at SAIT in Calgary on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Tran is the manager of the SAIT Esports Gaming League. He was hired in December of 2021 to be the facilitator because of his background in esports. (Photo by Rory Carroll/The Emery Weal)

The Trojans needed experience to help field the phenomenon of esports, and they found the right person in another city.

Andrew Tran, 25, moved to Calgary from Edmonton in August 2021, and was hired in December. He was hired because of his expertise with creating an esports club at McNally High School, and Smash Brothers University at the University of Alberta.

Tran is the coach for the Trojans esports, and will recruit, coach, and mentor their roster and those that participate in esports. He also does work with AESA.

Sports teams have a structure in helping athletes deal with losses and the struggles of being an athlete, but Tran notes that esports teams need this as the environment can be toxic.

“Esports is still fairly new, and some players can’t convey safe feedback in a nice way,” said Tran.

“Having that lesson learned is crucial, and I think with the athletic department behind this program, we can provide that resource.”

Tran has been competitive with Super Smash Brothers Melee since he was nine years old, and he described the experience of dealing with loss as a challenging one.

“I didn’t have the support of a coach,” said Tran.

“I think esports players at an academic level, whether you start in junior high or in the collegiate level, need that support staff to help you break through that mental barrier and to learn. It’s why I think esports is great.”

Tran notes the importance of the team structure, like working as a team, receiving constructive criticism, and how to handle losing and winning.

He also says esports provides an outlet for students that would normally not participate in physical sports as an opportunity to have the same college sports experience.

Video Games at SAIT

The SAIT Trojans Esports Room is outfitted with 16 Alienware computers in Calgary on Thursday, April 21, 2022. The program is funded by SAIT Trojan Athletics and is located in the Campus Centre. (Photo by Rory Carroll/The Emery Weal)

The SAIT Trojans Esports Room, located inside SAIT’s Campus Centre, houses 16 Alienware computers that are all capable of high-end gaming with their Nvidia 3080 graphics cards and AMD Ryzen 7 5000 series processors.

The total price estimate is between $35,000 and $50,000.

“These are high-end computers. They’re way better than mine,” said Tran.

“This is for our students and for those that don’t have a high-end gaming computer, so there’s a good chance for a student to come by and play games on a really high-end computer.”

All SAIT students and AUArts students can access the room between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 – 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

SAIT’s esports teams consist of League of Legends and Rocket League, but Tran is looking towards Super Smash Brothers, DOTA 2, Teamfight Tactics, and chess for team play.

There are currently seven players on the roster before the upcoming graduation in June 2022.

The only other colleges that have teams are Keyano College and Lethbridge College.

Tran’s wish is to see the Trojans join with other collegiate leagues, like the National League hosted by the North American Collegiate Esports Organization.

“That’s something I’m hoping we can try,” said Tran.

Rory Carroll is an editor for The Emery Weal and contributor. He is a second-year graduating photojournalism major at SAIT. You can find more of his work on his Instagram here.

Alejandro Melgar is a second-year graduating student in the online-print journalism stream. He is the editor-in-chief of The Emery Weal and is a contributor. You can find his work on LiveWire Calgary and on his website here.

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