Stuck. That’s what most of us are. Stuck at home. Some of us are bored or losing our minds. Sometimes it feels like we’ve ventured onto an alternate world ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus occurred. Traditional sports were an essential distraction before the virus became our enemy, and now, we need a new distraction: Esports. Despite gaming tournaments and conventions being canceled across the globe, esports became some of people’s biggest allies.

Recently, I was part of a charity tournament that I helped organize. Wayfair, an American company that sells home-goods and furniture in Boston, Massachusetts, held one a couple of weeks ago. Software engineering intern, Hersh Nagpal, is currently on co-op for Wayfair and is working from home. Before he received orders to work from home, he was one of the leaders organizing a League of Legends charity tournament.

Wayfair League of Legends tournament poster created by Hersh Nagpal
Wayfair League of Legends tournament poster created by Hersh Nagpal

The entry fee was $10, and I played alongside the organizers and over 100 people. Many team members held streams on Twitch to increase the hype, and the winner of the match chose the charity they would want to donate the money to. It was Hersh’s first time setting up a charity tournament, and he described the planning as something way more complex than just setting up a Discord server and promoting the event.

He said “It was stressful. We had to contact a lot of different departments within Wayfair’s office since it was originally an event we were holding in person, but 90% of that work led to nothing since it ended up being remote.” There were technical difficulties in the first half-hour because we didn’t know how to set up the tournament code for the custom games which caused lots of confusion. However, “It was rewarding work though because everyone we talked to wanted to help us and it was Wayfair’s first charity tournament,” said Hersh.

List of teams that participated in the League of Legends Wayfair tournament
List of teams that participated in the League of Legends Wayfair tournament

Hersh and I were in a team and lost hard on all three rounds in the first bracket due to skill level difference. Despite the frustration, Hersh believes that “The best part for me is playing with people who are better than you and watching how strategically they absolutely destroy you. A close second is watching the people who troll and still absolutely destroy you." We tend to become more strategic and aware of our gameplays in tournaments due to our passion to win for not only ourselves, but also for the team.

Lots of competitiveness, lots of teamwork, lots of support. In the end, it was all about the lively and positive environment people gave out. Hersh says that “My favorite part is watching all the work we put in actually happening as people are playing and having fun. Even though it was a disaster trying to set up the first 20 minutes, it ended up working out and we raised a lot of money for the winning charity. Also, the trolls are fun." Team GG won and decided to donate the charity money to St Jude’s Children's Hospital.

We learned that COVID-19 has stopped many events from happening, but it hasn’t prevented charity tournaments from happening. There has been an increase in viewership for streaming and communication platforms such as Twitch and Discord. Streamers and influencers are thriving and growing in the online platform where fans are stuck at home, watching a constant flow of entertainment. Riot Games has also seen an increase in the number of players and increased activity on their servers ever since we were all forced to stay under quarantine. Streamers hold Esport charity tournaments in order to collect donations to relieve those who have been negatively impacted by this unexpected pandemic. Even Meyers Leonard hosted a 24-hour charity stream on ESPN Twitch. It becomes a platform where it positively impacts people.

Shows the increase of viewership of Twitch since COVID-19 quarantine started
Shows the increase of viewership of Twitch since COVID-19 quarantine started

The goal of charity tournaments is not only to raise money, but to foster joy among those with a passion for gaming. Some of us cope through creative outlets or relaxing activities such as binge-watching Netflix, painting, spending time with our pets, cooking, and much more. Video games allow people to engage with one another virtually and increase social interaction. Many forms of gaming, especially multiplayer games, create a feeling of togetherness through collaborative efforts towards a goal. For me, video games have always been something that helps me get through difficult times. It’s an activity that has genuinely connected me with others.