In the ever-evolving world of esports, collegiate-run organizations have become a new pathway for aspiring pros to polish their talent and compete in their games of choice.
As many universities across North America are investing heavily in the esports ecosystem, collegiate tournaments have begun to pop up everywhere to provide these teams with a place to play.
Leagues are filled with teams following a simple naming convention. Take a school’s name or mascot and place the word “esports” or one of the school’s colours behind it and you have your team name.
However, simple naming conventions fail to describe the legacy of a team from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) that played an instrumental role in propelling the school to the forefront of Canadian university esports. A team whose name shook up the status quo and refreshed the collegiate Valorant scene—a team called the TMU SHORTYKINGS.
“Schools found it funny that we were called the SHORTYKINGS,” said second-year business technology management student and former SHORTYKINGS player Levi “v1rus” Montana. “SHORTYKINGS was typed in all caps, it’s almost like we are yelling it at you.”
Although the SHORTYKINGS announced they were disbanding this past fall semester, the legacy of both their name and in-game performance will last for years to come.
It took time for the SHORTYKINGS to establish their legacy in-game like they had with their name. The team opted to skip many league games and tournaments in 2021 in order to go out with friends on the weekend, which forced them to forfeit matches or attempt to find substitutes on short notice.
But come August of 2022, the SHORTYKINGS formed a new roster that defined who they were and their legacy for years to come.
The team began to take practice seriously and their skills rose to a new level, holding their own among the best in Canadian collegiate Valorant, a first-person shooter developed by Riot Games that combines the tactical gameplay of Counter Strike: Global Offensive with ability usage seen in games such as Overwatch or League of Legends.
“We came close to beating St. Clair [College],” said former SHORTYKINGS player Jeffrey ‘JEFFREY’ Tan. “Which is maybe not right now but at the time, the best Canadian team.”
Not only were the SHORTYKINGS racking up individual wins but their placements in tournaments soared. In December 2022 they finished top 16 out of 32 teams in the College Valorant : North Fall tournament. They also made the semi-finals of the Collegiate Esports Association (CEA)’s Fall 2022 tournament.
“I think our biggest accomplishments were not us winning,” said Montana. “But it was getting better and better every single game. Because we went from being like a mid-tier team to being one of the best in four months.”
The SHORTYKINGS’ success was only part of TMU’s rise as one of Canada’s most prominent collegiate esports programs. TMU has built a foundation for esports competition, which now includes the Red Bull Gaming Hub: a gaming facility designed for TMU students to learn about and play video games while surrounded by top-of-the-line hardware and software.
“Getting that lab, when I first heard of it, was huge,” said Tan. “I was like, ‘Wow, we are really taking an extra step into esports.’”
Despite the excitement for the gaming hub, the team played from the comfort of their own individual homes and never took up the university’s offer to practice in the space. Tan cited unresolved lag issues at the time as to why the SHORTYKINGS never played in the hub in 2022.
The squad never got another chance to compete with one another, side by side in the same room. In December 2022, following the team’s CEA semi-finals loss, the team announced their disbandment via Twitter.
The SHORTYKINGS were moving in different directions with players like Tan pursuing professional opportunities, while others like Montana are taking a break to focus on school. Only one member of the squad stuck around to compete for TMU Blue, another TMU Valorant team.
“After SHORTYKINGS broke up, we went out for dinner as a team the next week,” said Montana. “We’re still all good friends. We still talk. I still [play] with most of the SHORTYKINGS guys.”
But with TMU’s new LVL UP! LAN, an event series that happened in late January, Montana thinks the SHORTYKINGS may need to reunite one last time and finally play in the same room, united side-by-side, if another event of that nature rolls around.
“SHORTYKINGS might have to make a quick one-tournament comeback every once in a while just to play at these TMU LANs,” said Montana.