While traditional sport has ground to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic, people have been turning to competitive gaming in droves.

Griffith’s Griffith Esports program has undergone rapid expansion over the past few months, and now has more than 100 members.

The club was launched several years ago, with players originally participating in League of Legends competitions at a national and regional level. The program has now grown to include popular titles including Rocket League, Overwatch and Dota 2 and FIFA.

Griffith Esport Club President, Bachelor of Information Technology student Tom Chappell, said Esports was increasingly popular across Australian universities.

“It’s going from strength to strength and we’re passionate about creating a grassroots pathway to help develop players who dream of competing at a professional level,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that players are able to pursue something they are passionate about and it’s great to compete under the Griffith banner.

“We have a dedicated fan base at Griffith, and there is a lot of support for the players.”

Griffith Esport coach Brice Annonier

Bachelor of Psychology student Brice Annonier coaches League of Legends at Griffith. There are eight teams who live stream selected matches on a dedicated Twitch Channel each week.

“League of Legends is the most played game online, and there are a dozen professional teams in Australia,” he said.

“We’re starting to see big investment in ESports, with companies like Nike and Red Bull sponsoring teams.”

Brice said ESports attracted a diverse group of players from across Griffith.

“We have people from all different disciplines at Griffith, from games design to law and business,” he said.

“It gives people who don’t necessarily enjoy traditional sport a chance to train hard and be part of a team.”

Brice’s teams train at least three times a week, and he said the players developed a wide range of skills, from hand-eye coordination to strategy, collaboration and communication.

Dr Jason Doyle - Griffith University

Dr Jason Doyle

Griffith Business School sports management lecturer Dr Jason Doyle said Esports had become a billion dollar global industry.

“Even before the coronavirus lockdowns, Esports was a big business,” he said.

“To put it in perspective, more people tuned in to watch the League of Legends championships the than the NBA Finals series.

“Current restrictions have forced traditional sporting codes to embrace Esports – we’ve seen the V8 Supercars and AFL run e-series. A lot of organisations are taking this as an opportunity to test the waters.

“Professional sports clubs are also trying to tap into new markets and build their engagement with younger fans.”

Dr Doyle said there had been a push to include Esports in events like the Commonwealth Games and summer Olympics.

“We have seen ESports mirror the structure of traditional sport – there are coaches, managers, endorsement deals, a strong fan base.

“The Commonwealth Games Federation recently signed a partnership deal with the global Esports federation, so I think there is a much greater level of acceptance.”