As COVID-19 continues to draw more people into the world of gaming and esports, the community in Chicago and at Northwestern also continues to grow. Chicago’s Forge, a new organization, provides a foundation for high school and college students in the Chicago area to realize their potential and get involved in esports.

Northwestern’s esports club thrived throughout the pandemic, with new teams created for games like Valorant and Call of Duty, along with the growth of our Overwatch team and ever-popular Super Smash Bros club. More than just a community, the esports club at Northwestern helps members build valuable skills beyond improving their tactics and strategies in-game.

“Part of playing on a team is that everyone has to step up and take responsibility,” said Owen Janssen, a captain of this year’s Overwatch team at Northwestern that competes in the Overwatch Collegiate Championships. “It helps to foster leadership and communication skills. I think people don’t think about that much.”

Skills like these are what Chicago’s Forge founding member Chuck Porcelli, a Northwestern alum, hopes to emphasize through integrating esports into the community.

“We want to create a world where esports infrastructure is as accessible as traditional sports has been for hundreds of years,” said Porcelli, who connects to gaming on a personal level. “Gaming is filling the void in my life after being a student athlete … we communicate in similar styles and understand how to tackle problems as a group.”

Porcelli hopes the programs offered through Chicago’s Forge will emphasize how esports can teach valuable life skills and show that esports programs are worth community investment.

“We see a lot of success when community leaders recognize that you can organize esports in the same way that you can organize traditional sports,” Porcelli said. “We aim to start small and start local, to help any community, institution or school to help lay down the groundwork that suits them best.”  

Chicago’s Forge provides support beneficial to college students already involved in esports programs. Forge hopes to meet schools where they’re at and provide infrastructure that is needed at any level, from organizing local area network (LAN) tournaments to helping schools get supplies for their students involved in esports.

“The first thing I could think of was how amazing the support will be for people who want to pursue things like this,” said Peyton Gatza, a player and broadcaster involved with DePaul University’s Overwatch program. “For the sake of growing into a better program and getting more people involved, this is going to be amazing at that, and I am excited for it.”

Janssen shares similar thoughts to how Chicago’s Forge can help students at Northwestern.

“Hopefully once we get to a place where we can be in-person again, it would be cool to host events as a club,” said Janssen about Northwestern’s potential involvement with Chicago’s Forge. “It would help to have a bigger organization behind us to make connections that I don't know if we would otherwise have the knowledge to be making.”

Chicago’s Forge currently offers full support for Overwatch and partial support for League of Legends and Valorant. They also have their sights set on adding programs for Rocket League and even more games soon.

The collegiate Overwatch community in the Midwest has grown immensely, also thanks to an organization called kaiju corp, founded by Sean Norton. Kaiju has connected many schools such as Northwestern, DePaul, Illinois Tech, Indiana Tech and even some established high school teams to play and learn together.

“Being able to see players I’ve coached get into college and get jobs post college, being able to be a part of that journey is not only a gift but something you can do through competitive esports,” said Norton, known as “tengu” by the players and teams he works with. “Chicago’s Forge is another organization that uses esports as that vehicle to continue to bring positivity into this world.”

For students wanting to get involved with Chicago’s Forge, whether you are a first-time gamer or are already part of an established group, Porcelli emphasized the organization is open to working with anyone.

“As for NU students, we are looking for partners of all different types,” Porcelli said. “Anyone who is interested in trying to apply their passion for gaming or gaming based events and to do something with that, we would love to help. Let’s use gaming as a positive thing and do something with it for others.”

Want to get involved with Northwestern esports? Check out their discord!

Learn more about Chicago’s Forge.

*Article thumbnail licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Taken by Tim Bartel from Cologne, Germany - Overwatch.