“However, sadly, we find ourselves in a position where the ongoing operations of the business are not financially viable and as such, have taken the decision not to operate going into the new academic year” so read the final statement of Irish Collegiate Esports (ICE). ICE was the organisation in charge of running collegiate competitions for the last five years.
Founded by Aidan Boylan, ICE was the first attempt at an inter-collegiate esports competition in Ireland. The organisation was registered as a business (College Esports Ltd) but didn’t operate under a profit motive. We have no way of knowing for sure how ICE spent its money as its accounts were not made publicly available to students. ICE co-owner Jason “Cardinality” Power touched upon this point in his goodbye post: “I, alongside my peers, did all of this expecting absolutely nothing in return, despite what some would lead you to believe. We never expected a penny out of it, only to keep the lights on and do our best to try and let investment keep us afloat (hence why we started slashing students’ entry fees)”. ICE was certainly unpopular among certain sections of the collegiate esports community, whether it was because of minor controversies, a dislike of the personalities at the top or because some people will hate anything, who can say. Whatever you think of ICE, its contribution to college life was a positive one and it has laid valuable groundwork for the future of collegiate esports in Ireland.
An alternative idea that was touted during the lifespan of ICE was some kind of council of all collegiate esports societies (Netsoc handles esports for UCC) that could run inter-collegiate competitions instead of ICE. Following the dissolution of ICE, some students decided to explore this route. Irish Esports Society Leaders (IESL) was formed shortly after ICE disbanded in order to explore a new way of delivering collegiate esports to Ireland’s student population. For this week’s interview, I talked to Yannick “retsol” Gloster from IESL about the future of collegiate esports in Ireland. IESL recently announced they would be partnering with GamerStore.ie in order to run “Legion Collegiate”, potentially the new home of collegiate esports tournaments in Ireland.
A Trinity College Dublin student, Yannick was involved in the team’s Counter-Strike team during the last two seasons of ICE. When asked how he got involved with IESL, Yannick answered “When ICE closed its operations, a few people including myself wanted to ensure that there would be some sort of league for Irish players to play in regardless of whether it was an Irish specific league or the opportunity to play in the UK in NUEL (National University Esports League) or NSE (National Student Esports). I had been talking to the guys at GamerStore about a related Irish esports thing and they said that they were interested in supporting a Collegiate League in Ireland”.
One of the most important things going forward, in my eyes, is that student voices are the loudest in the relationship going forward. I asked retsol if he felt that IESL was going to be an organisation that is more inclusive of the student voice. “IESL is a place for students and societies involved in Esports to better coordinate events, and have their voices heard when decisions are being made. It’s entirely student-focused”. I was also curious about how GamerStore was chosen, and how many interested parties there were in taking collegiate esports forward: “We had been speaking with FACEIT and NUEL as well. FACEIT was entirely CSGO focused and we wanted to ensure that there was no game left behind and that everyone would still be able to continue playing as before. NUEL has actually allowed Irish Universities to play in their UK leagues which will allow teams to play against a much bigger pool of players. It was really important to us that we find an organization that would continue to support the Irish community as we are at the end of the day, a group of students who all know each other and have been playing together for the last few years. GameStore had mentioned their interest as I mentioned previously so we worked with them to detail what that would look like and the sort of commitment everyone would have to make. We’re really excited to work with them as they are passionate about esports in Ireland and have been working with big sponsors in the past such as An Post and Trust Gaming”.
I personally am glad that we aren’t being absorbed into the United Kingdom collegiate esports ecosystem. It’s important that we maintain our own community in Ireland. I wanted to probe Yannick on their relationship with the now-defunct ICE organisation so I enquired about the copyrights regarding the team’s logos. “Unfortunately, ICE has not been interested in selling or allowing us to use any of their logos. This includes the logos of the universities that the societies have been using for a long while. It’s a real shame as I know a lot of societies had a connection to their brand and logo however we are lucky that for every college team that had their logo under the ownership of ICE, the guys at GamerStore has made them new logos and branding which the societies and teams now have full ownership over.” It is interesting that ICE was not even willing to sell their intellectual property if the company is planning on folding completely. UCC is actually one of the few teams that own their logo but I’m personally hoping we get a new one because the new artist has a fantastic style.
ICE was very hands-on in their management of the collegiate scene, I was interested in how much of an interest GamerStore were taking in the administration of the tournaments. Yannick answered: “GameStore is managing a lot of the business side of things: sponsorship, branding, and they are paying specific game admins to run each specific game. We are also currently looking with them, what the live streams of matches are going to look like and they are pretty involved there. What they are doing well, is taking all of the student and community feedback and integrating that into the Legion Collegiate so that it is really a series that is built for students, the way they want to play”. An advantage of GameStore taking on the financial aspect of the scene is that they have an actual income from their main venture, whereas ICE was completely dependent on entry fees. Hopefully, this translates to a higher quality stream and overall product.
My final question was regarding the productivity of IESL meetings, is there any friction between different society leaders or are things running smoothly? “We’ve been meeting periodically over the last few weeks as we have been going over the rules and how everything is going to be run. We’re very lucky that everyone is good-humoured and well-intentioned. Any disagreements over rules have been worked out in a very productive fashion because, at the end of the day, we all have the same goal which is to provide the best league for Irish students that we can. We hope to continue to meet as needed so that any issues that do come up within the league, get dealt with quickly and with student input.” That was fantastic to hear, I always got the sense playing in previous seasons that the community was competitive but also friendly and willing to banter.
Hopefully, Legion Collegiate makes a strong start this semester and carries this momentum into the future. This could be the beginning of a new age in collegiate esports in Ireland. Signups will be opening soon so join both the Legion Collegiate and Netsoc Rebels Discords if you want to participate in League of Legends, Rocket League, Valorant, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Smash tournaments this semester.