A hulking, horned beast lumbers down the hedgerow as the body count rises.
Nearby, a screen fades to gray.
“Get away from my friends!” yells Dylan Shannon, 19, the youngest member of the Randolph College competition gaming team. He sends his fist-pumping blue Minotaur into the melee. Seconds later, a bright red color seeps from the edges of his computer screen and pulses like a slow heartbeat.
“Ah, save me,” Shannon says.
His teammates — under the guise of warlords, princes and fairies — move swiftly across League of Legends’ virtual forest.
Time is of the essence.
The North American Collegiate Starleague’s March Madness competition — a fight to the death for college online gamers nationwide — starts Saturday. The new format means players may be slaying dragons and epic monsters for hours, as games run back-to-back for teams that continue to climb the rankings.
Only 16 college teams will make it to the championship round. Entries still were being accepted Thursday, but already the competition included teams from schools the likes of Rutgers, MIT, University of Florida, San Diego State University and more. Up to 256 teams will be accepted into the competition.
“I love competition; I urge people to beat me,” said Randolph College senior Tim Fowler this week as the team went over strategies and weaknesses.
Fowler, the team’s captain, helped set up the electronic gaming area on the second floor of Randolph College’s new Student Center. When the college was renovating the center, which opened this semester, school officials let students choose the gaming equipment.
For the first time, Randolph’s gaming team is practicing side-by-side rather than from disparate locations across campus. The school’s computers feature some of the latest hardware and software, including high-end graphics cards that make daily practices even better.
“It’s making the game more social,” said Fowler, who is eager to see the team grow. What started as a club in 2009 now is an official RC team with 25 members.
Hundreds of colleges now boast e-gaming teams that compete in the fall and spring for titles and prize money. Booty from last year’s Collegiate Starleague competition stood at $40,000.
Although the team still is young, it posted a 5-2 season last year going up against teams like Christopher Newport University and West Point.
Saturday at 3 p.m., the team starts CSL competition and hosts its first public gaming event. Guests can watch the game projected live in the student center and hear commentary from team members over the college radio station, WWRM. An online video stream will be available.
“I want it to be a sports event that people go to the same as a soccer game,” Fowler said.
“It’s something which is different, which I think is cool.”
He hopes having an audience for the first time will propel them to greater successes this weekend and inspire others to join the team.
Next season, the team will add games like Dota2, StarCraft II and Super Smash Brothers to the competition schedule to ensure even more students get the chance to compete.
To watch the game live online visit: www.twitch.tv/shinra457
Contact Amy Trent at (434) 385-5543 or email@example.com.