‘Rainbow Six Siege’ esports team opens season with win over Brown University

With eyes on screens, hands on keyboards and minds tactically melded, one of Norwich University’s esports teams shot, blasted and stormed its way to a season-opening “Rainbow Six Siege” victory over Brown University on Feb. 12.

Norwich’s “A” team for “Rainbow Six Siege” used laptops, personal or university-issued to compete in the match, played from 8 to 11 p.m. The team consists of Noah Hamilton (screen name Knack), a sophomore psychology major; Brennden Le (screen name BL), a junior cybersecurity major; Matthew Wright (LuxPoseidon), a senior cybersecurity major; James Tate (PoTe) a freshman electrical and computer engineering major; and Peter Shadwell (Choloman), a sophomore engineering major. Le and Hamilton are co-captains. 

Norwich’s esports teams launched in fall 2019 and has matches broadcast on Twitch. A club of League of Legends game players formed a year before the official program launched.

“Rainbow Six Siege” is a worldwide hit. CNBC reported Feb. 10 that the game has reached 70 million registered players, up from 10 million users in November 2016.

Norwich has 12 teams across seven games with about 60 total players on scholarships. Besides “Rainbow Six Siege,” Norwich teams compete in “Rocket League,” “Apex: Legends,” “League of Legends,” “Valorant,” “CS:GO,” and “Overwatch.”

“Rainbow Six Siege,” a first-person shooter game released in 2015 and made by Montreuil, France-based Ubisoft, focuses on strategy and team tactics as players become attackers or defenders to rescue hostages, defuse bombs and secure locations. 

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The scoreboard tells the story of Norwich’s “Rainbow Six Siege” esports competition with Brown University on Feb. 12. (Screenshot from video/Ubisoft.)

Ubisoft’s website said a vast trove of game maps, varying in scale, design, location and time of day, keep play shifting. Destructible environments add challenge; ballistics and sledgehammers can tear out walls and floors; gunfire can pit them with peepholes. Ubisoft’s website said, “There are very few places you’ll be truly safe and little chance you’ll ever experience the same map the same way twice.”

“Rainbow Six Siege” is a worldwide hit. CNBC reported Feb. 10 that the game has reached 70 million registered players, up from 10 million users in November 2016. CNBC said 15 million players registered in 2020 alone, perhaps because  coronavirus health protocols kept people home. 

The interest spike helped Ubisoft post a billion euros ($1.2 billion) in third-quarter revenue, double from a year earlier.

Surging popularity for “Rainbow Six Siege” reflects in tournament prize pools. A year ago, CNBC reported Ubisoft’s Six Invitational tournament in 2020 offered $3 million in winnings. The first such tournament, in 2017, offered $100,000.

Team faculty adviser Jeremy Hansen, an associate professor of computer science, said the Feb. 12 match wasn’t Norwich’s first against an Ivy League school; he called Boston University and Northeastern formidable “Siege” rivals. (Norwich’s “Rainbow Six” team lost to the University of Michigan on Friday.)

Heads together

Wright said Norwich’s team thrived with communication and adaptability. 

“We really took in our first map and learned how they were going to play the next maps; we adapted our game play to counter theirs better,” Wright wrote in a Discord post. “We definitely had a few rounds where it came down to our teamplay and us relying upon others to get our backs so to speak and finish out the round.”

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Norwich University esports player Peter Shadwell (Choloman) works through a scenario in a “Rainbow Six Siege” esports match Feb. 12 against Brown University. (Screenshot from video/Ubisoft.)

In a separate post, Hamilton said the team focused on improving individually and succeeding collectively. 

“Everyone we have right now is willing to think analytically about what we need to do to win, and execute on that shared vision,” he wrote. “I never felt we hit a wall where we couldn’t adapt to the way that Brown was playing.”

Hamilton said he hoped the first-match energy would carry forward and the team would continue to succeed.

“I’m personally not satisfied with one good game,” he wrote. “I want to keep the momentum going into the rest of the season.”

In an email, Hansen said he expects esports excitement to build on campus and beyond.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that a lot more people are going to start watching,” he said.

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