In April 2020, leaders at the State University of New York decided they wanted to do something in the early days of COVID-19 to help socially isolated students feel involved, stay connected and feel pride in the college when they couldn’t set foot on campus.
SUNY was already a leader in collegiate esports, with a top-of-the-line, 1,800-square-foot arena on its Canton campus that boasts 24 Dell Alienware Area-51 PCs, each with AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti video cards and 32 gigabytes of RAM. So, it didn’t take long to come up with a unique and pandemic-friendly idea: SUNY would organize an esports tournament for any students at its 64 campuses who wanted to compete.
The response was overwhelming, with teams from 40 campuses participating. Many of the teams were new, formed specifically to take part in the tournament. That reception — together with the demand of 50 to 60 students clamoring to join a handful of player teams — led SUNY to dream up something even more ambitious before the competition had even come to a close: creating a year-round esports league across all its campuses for fall 2020.
The only challenge was facilitating the technological infrastructure needed to make it happen.