IU’s gaming club aspires for ‘legendary’ eSports status

In the IU gaming club online chat, you will find a hub of announcements, server rules, and people looking for other people to game with. In this online meeting place, you will find a series of chat rooms for people who take video games very seriously.

This is where the Indiana University eSports teams are located. All six of them.

One of those teams plays League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game and one the most popular eSports titles on the planet. The game is regularly in the top three most-streamed games on the online streaming service Twitch, and has sold out arenas across the world for tournaments and events.

While the IU team isn’t playing in packed arenas in front of fans, it still plays at a high level and is in multiple tournaments across the eSports scene.

IU’s League of Legends team currently plays in four online competitions, including the Collegiate Starleague preseason, the Alienware Arena ACEL tournament, the American Video Gaming League collegiate tournament, and the Upsurge Minor League. They also competed in an Iowa-based LAN tournament in December.

Matt Taylor is the organizer for the League of Legends team. His role as team manager involves serving as a team coach, setting up scrimmages with other teams, and being the team’s IU Gaming Club representative.

“Matt’s the voice of the team,” head coach Vladislav Marinov said. “If I say something and Matt agrees, the team listens.”

Marinov, a sophomore at IU, was once the 14th-ranked League of Legends player in solo queue on the North American server. But instead of competing, the Zionsville native said he wants to help other players reach their potential.

“I’ve already reached my peak,” said Marinov. “I want to get these guys to reach their peak now.”

League of Legends has five different roles in which players can play. These roles are defined by which lane the player chooses to start the game. There are only three lanes on the map. Most games have two players go to one lane, usually the bottom lane, and has one player as a freelancer who plays in between the lanes, fighting neutral monsters, referred to as the “jungler.” The other two players, referred to as solo laners, go to their lanes by themselves.

One of those solo laners is the top laner. This player will mostly play characters, or “champions,” that have a lot of health and short range spells and attacks. These champions are commonly referred to as tanks because they are supposed to “tank” the damage from the other team and protect the lower-health champions on their own team.

The other solo laner is the middle laner, more commonly known as the “mid-laner.” This player will mostly play champions that deal burst damage, or a lot of damage in a short amount of time. These champions usually deal burst damage through their spells, using them in specific combinations to kill the enemy champions quickly, before the other team can fight back.

The jungler, not locked down to any specific lane, can play a variety of different champions. This role is only restrained by how well a certain champion can fight the neutral characters in between the lanes and remain alive. This role will also goes into other lanes and will attempt to “gank,” or attack the enemy laner, and help his ally laner obtain a lead against his opponent. The most common champions played in this role are ones who can slow or stun other champions, making it easier to gank lanes and initiate fights with the other team.

Lastly, there is the bottom lane, or “bot lane.” This lane consists of attack damage carriers, or ADC — champions that have long-range attacks so the player can focus on building items that boost damage instead of health or defense. The ADC is used to whittle down enemy champions and turrets through its strong base attacks, or auto attacks, from a safe distance. This is called “kiting.” These champions have spells that can help the player escape dangerous situations, or to increase the amount of damage their auto attacks can do.

The ADC is usually paired with a support, a player whose champion that can heal or defend the ADC through stuns or defensive spells. These defensive spells usually involve moving enemy or ally champions away or towards the team.

The starting lineup at IU consists of students from a variety of backgrounds. The top laner position is filled by Charlie “Speedy Lion” Moore, a sophomore who transferred from Denison University and started playing the game in eighth grade. Jungler Michael “Deadric” Bolus is a junior and one of the in-game leaders on the team. Mid-laner Noah “King Jebus” Kaufmann is a second-year graduate student originally from the University of Iowa. The team is rounded out by the bottom lane duo of Ryan “DireBumb” Everts, a junior who started playing in 2012, and Elijah “Yama” Kim, a sophomore and the other in-game leader on the team.

The players found their way to the team through a variety of portals: the IU Gaming Discord, Facebook, as well as searching online. All of the players had to be ranked in the League of Legends ratings system, called the Diamond ELO, in order to try out for the team. Kim is currently the highest-ranked player on the team, at a level of Diamond II.

Kim is the primary shot caller for the team. A “shot caller” is the person who leads the team and makes the major in-game decisions. Kim will get information from his teammates, such as where the other team is, or whether the enemy team’s spells have been used recently, and then make quick judgments. He tells his team where they should be on the map, as well as which lane or objective they should be around and fighting over. Kim will then tell the team when to fight the enemy or when to back off and live to fight another day.

Kim is helped in his shot-calling efforts in the early part of the game by his jungler, Bolus. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Kim is confined to his lane and focuses on his ADC and his enemy laners. Bolus picks up those shot-calling duties since he can roam around and influence other parts of the map.

Being the middle- to late-game shot caller of the team, Kim often plays champions that have spells which can initiate fights or play strong early in the game. This helps him and his lane partner, Everts, come out of the early game with a lead.

“We usually tell our top and mid to play safe and let jungler keep ganking our bot, so we just win (the) bot lane, then swap to top,” Kim said. “Then we go to mid and get objectives.”

The South Korea native has professional aspirations, having already sent an application to an American eSports organization, Counter Logic Gaming for a tryout.

“They just ignored me,” Kim said. “I guess maybe they have better players.”

Kim said he chose CLG because he likes their bot lane ADC player, Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and wants to partner with him in the Riot-run North American league, the Legends Champions Series, or “LCS.”

“He knows what he’s playing, and then I really like his Caitlyn,” Kim, referring to one of Hayes’ signature champions. “His kiting skill is so good, it’s clean. Just clean.”

Although Kim has already tried to break through to the pro gaming scene, he plans to try again next semester. His plan is to get invited to the LCS scouting grounds, an event where teams in the league can watch and draft players that are invited. Think of the NFL Combine but for League of Legends. To be invited, Kim would have to be one of the top four players in his role on the solo queue ladder.

“You have to set your goal high, always,” Kim said.

While Kim is looking ahead to the future, he and his teammates at IU are still focusing on going far in their tournaments, and hopefully getting some of that prize pool money.

“I have a good feeling about this team,” Kim said.