Photo by Ben Hider / Courtesy of Iona College
Iona College’s burgeoning esports program is charging ahead with its championship-winning Rocket League team.
Video games are a way to break the boundaries of reality, to enter a realm of rocket-powered cars, towering robots, earth-shattering explosions, and infinite possibilities. The esports program at Iona College consists of 37 gamers who have mastered the art of playing complex games that allow them to do just that. The program offers these PC prodigies an opportunity to put their skills to the test by competing against other talented players and gaming organizations nationally.
A common interest in STEM and computer science among members has turned the esports program into a tight-knit community. However, most of the program’s recent success can be attributed to its Rocket League team. Rocket League is a game in which teams are tasked with advancing the ball down the field and scoring in the opponent’s goal while defending their own. Sound like soccer? It is, but with one significant catch: Players use cars that can fly to maneuver around the field.
“I feel like Rocket League is one of those perfect esports,” says Dylan Zerafa, a member of Iona’s esports program and Rocket League team captain. “I certainly think esports like Rocket League should be up there with sports like baseball, basketball, and football.”
The esports lounge, where the magic happens, is equipped with computers, modems, gaming chairs, and TVs that allow the students to play the games they love. These games include Overwatch; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive; FIFA; Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; League of Legends; and Valorant.
Iona’s Rocket League team has competed in several esports tournaments throughout the past year, such as the Electronic Gaming Federation, or EGF, which is one of the super-leagues for Rocket League. Iona ended up with a positive record in the EGF, which resulted in the team’s participation in the 2021–22 MAAC Rocket League Esports Championship in Atlantic City, NJ. There, they won the first-place title and exhibited their gaming excellence on a grand stage.
Ahead, there seems to be no sign the growth of esports will slow, a prospect that the Rocket League eagerly anticipates. “Playing esports at Iona has helped me build strong relationships with not just my teammates but also with other people in the field,” says Zerafa. “It’s a big community out there, and it is only getting bigger.”