From Aaron Rodgers to Nathan Adrian, Cal produces big names in the world of athletics. Now, add eight more to that list — this time in the world of eSports.
On Feb. 16, a group of the campus’s premier StarCraft eSports players, the UC Berkeley Collegiate StarLeague team, seized the world championship and a $40,000 prize at the AZUBU Collegiate Champions Grand Finals.
The team, composed of sophomores Conan Liu, Andrew Wang, Richard Xu, Luke Lalor, juniors Fan Yang and Hyunjae Lim, as well as senior David Lu and freshman Alan Yao, brought the title back to Berkeley for the first time since 2009.
A popular multiplayer strategy game, StarCraft has garnered a strong following worldwide . The Collegiate StarLeague, which hosted the tournament, is the main collegiate gaming league for universities around the world. In other words, it’s “basically the NCAA for computer games,” according to Duran Parsi, CEO of the Collegiate StarLeague.
“eSports is like real sports,” Parsi said. “You have teams that fans can associate with, players with fun personalities, stars and broadcasters that help casual fans understand and follow the games. The difference is that athletes are playing on the computer.”
Like any other team here, Cal’s Collegiate StarLeague wasted no time getting ready. They began their journey in October, spending countless hours scouting opponent teams’ players, mapping out strategies and investigating teams in countries as far away as Denmark. It paid off.
The Cal team was eventually crowned North American StarCraft champions, earning them a position in the Grand Finals — no minor feat considering the fact that Cal had not been able to reach the final round since 2009.
It was in the Grand Finals that the team handily defeated Denmark’s Aarhus University, leaving the formidable Chunnam Techno University from Korea as the last remaining obstacle. After several close rounds and a 3-3 tie, it was Cal’s Liu who finally won the tiebreaker.
UC Berkeley has now become the first school in the tournament’s history to win the championship twice.
“We were so incredibly happy,” Liu said. “It was the greatest feeling ever.”
This team, however, is not one to dwell on their winnings. Now that this year’s grand championship is over, the Berkeley Collegiate StarLeague team is already looking toward the future.
“For next year we’ll definitely be training hard to become repeat champions,” Wang said. “We’re always looking for new talent and new blood.”
The team also hopes that their high profile win will help bring awareness of eSports to the Berkeley community.
“I feel like Collegiate eSports and competitive gaming in general are really becoming more and more legitimate,” Liu said. “I really hope one day colleges will start accepting eSports. I hope, one day, there will be recruitment processes, coverage, etc., of eSports teams just like any other traditional athletic team.”