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Founder of the National University Esports League speaks about competitive gaming and social experiences

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The Vainglory Live Spring Championship brought teams from Europe and America together for the first time to find the best Vainglory team in the Western hemisphere. 

It was an exciting weekend of action and teamwork and mobile games from two continents – and, for John Williams, founder of The National University Esports League, it’s the epithet of what he wanted from the league.

Williams admits that he was a competitive gamer when he was at university in 2008 “but I wasn’t very good at it.”

“But," he says, "that doesn’t matter. University is a good chance to try something new. I want to focus on participation more than anything. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are – just come along, play the game and enjoy.”

And at Vainglory, this is the case. Although professional teams compete in the Championships, league rankings don’t matter when two teams face off against each other.

Esports is something of a title filled with controversy because there is still the question of whether esports count as ‘real sports’.

Williams says: “They might be right, but it doesn’t matter. There is no magic wand to wave and suddenly people will believe its [competitive gaming] is a sport.

“I think we have a good place between sport, gaming, tech and entertainment and it allows us to do something cool – like Vainglory.”

On a more everyday level, Vainglory has something that very few other competitive games have – it’s a mobile game.

“Esports and mobile games are still relatively new,” Williams says, “I’m happy that Vainglory is pushing those boundaries. The response [to Vainglory] has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Williams speaks consistently on how important it is to him to create this sense of community and togetherness. He reminisces about playing Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, playing at his nan’s house with his brother and cousins. “It was in split screen, on a 15inch television, and I remember trying to see which pixels were my brother’s so that I could beat him,” he laughs.

And it’s the social aspect of being in the room together while experiencing these types of multiplayer games that the National University Esports League wants to encourage: “Online is great, because it allows you to play with people from all over the world, but being in the same room makes a difference. Memories and experiences are more tangible in person.”

Vainglory, being a mobile game, allows this feeling of togetherness to be realised anywhere you can. “Everything is far more accessible because everyone has a phone,” Williams points out. “On a university level, it doesn’t take much to make a tournament – get a phone and a group of people and you can play. It allows for lots of opportunities for people to come together.”

At this year’s Vainglory Spring Live Championships US team Cloud9 won the trophy and a place in the World Championship later this year.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t play Vainglory yourself, as it’s a free app on most app stores – so why not get your friends and get playing?

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