By Carla Rawson, Western Communications
Every athlete at Western hopes to finish their senior season on top.
On June 19, Computer Engineering student Kyle Raposo will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020.
While his final eSport season ended prematurely, he will graduate with memories of more than just titles.
For five years, ‘Shorthop’ – as Raposo is known to his teammates – has captained Western Legends, the university’s competitive League of Legends team.
The eSport competition game requires teams of five to use collective strategies to defeat rivals on a virtual battlefield. In the last decade, the competition’s popularity has soared, bringing in millions of online and in-person viewers to its professional matches. More than 300 collegiate teams from Canada and United States compete each year to be crowned the top college program.
Now regarded as the best collegiate team in Canada, the highly decorated Western Legends started from humble beginnings – in Raposo’s first-year residence room.
“It’s a team game and an expression of individual skill – while playing with people I could express my individual talent,” he said.
By time he arrived at Western in 2015, Raposo was already one of the Top 100 players in North America.
He turned to the campus gaming community as soon as he arrived. At the time, Western’s League of Legends team was more casual than competitive.
Since then, Raposo has captained and managed the five- to eight-player team that participates in weekly practises and regular tournaments throughout the year.
In 2018, the team gained recognition across North America by winning the Eastern Conference Championships in a pool of more than 80 teams, and made the trip to Los Angeles for the College Championships. In 2019, the team made finals.
“Playing on a stage like that, especially when a lot of us had aspirations of playing on a professional team in the future, is almost like a childhood dream fulfilled,” Raposo said. “It really validated the fact we were a good team, what we were doing was successful and it could only go up.”
When it comes to selecting a high-caliber team each year, finding players with talent and drive is crucial, but not the only thing Raposo considers important. For him, the key to success is a strong team environment – something he noticed other collegiate programs lacked.
“Creating the bond between players is something I was looking to do when I came to Western,” Raposo said. “I wanted to create a family environment where you could trust everybody and everybody really enjoyed each other.”
As eSports continue to gain traction, more opportunities have started to appear on campus for the growing number of interested students. The Western Electronic Gaming Association (WEGA), a student-club run through the University Students’ Council, has hundreds of members that participate in competitive and casual gaming.
Students can also come together to play on top-of-the-line PC gaming equipment in the eSports Arena in the University Community Centre. Like other top collegiate eSport teams, the Western Legends use this facility to run their weekly practices in person.
Next year, students in residence can even request to live on the eSports Living Learning Community in Essex Hall, complete with a like-minded community and an eSports lounge in the building.
Like any other student club or team on campus, these opportunities to get involved in gaming and eSports can enrich student experiences on-campus, explained Raposo.
“Being able to connect with people through something that is an initial interest might lead you to opportunities you might not have otherwise had,” he said.
Raposo credits his time with the Western Legends for being integral to his success, both academically and socially.
“I don’t know if I would have made it through five years of Computer Engineering without my team, and without the social groups that I built up through the game,” he said. “I’m graduating now, but those weren’t just players on a team – we’ll be friends for life.”
“Gaming rekindled my love for school. That is weird for a lot of people. To them, it’s ‘just a game.’ But for me, it was more than a game. It was like my home away from home.”
The passion Raposo has for the team is infectious. After seeing his reaction upon defeating the defending champions USC Irvine at the 2019 College Championships semifinals, it’s evident why his teammates call him the heart and soul of the team.
While Raposo’s tenure with the Western Legends has ended early due to tournament cancellations, he will be ready to help usher in the new team under incoming captain Danny Qiao.
“I may not be playing for the team, but I’ll be there for Danny, for anyone else who’s competing on the team, and to lead them in the right direction.” he said. “I’m graduating, but I’m still a Mustang at heart.”