As construction has begun on the new esports arena in the Plaster Student Union, the Missouri State University Esports Club is gearing up for a strong season of competition.

Led by President Roman “DudTheBomb” Thomas and Faculty Advisor Glen “SpartanLeonidus” Thompson, the esports club hopes to draw in new recruits and more scholarships for their players this season.

Roman Thomas, junior geology major, took over the position of president last fall, after the former president left for family reasons.

“At the end of last spring our president, she was going back home for the semester… I just kind of almost fit myself into the role because no one else would.”

A goal of Roman’s for the current season is to start organizing formal meetings for the organization, which had previously conducted all business over the messaging app Discord. Roman believes the completion of the new esports room will help make this goal possible.

“We’re generally mostly introverts, you know… but having a room where we all feel at home I think will be more enticing for individuals to come to meetings.”

Another goal of Roman’s is to draw in new recruits for the organization’s many teams. The organization currently has thirty-seven members total across eight competitive teams playing 6 games: League of Legends, Overwatch, SMITE, Rainbow Six: Siege and Rocket League.

Each team is supervised by the team’s game’s coordinator. The coordinator takes responsibility for finding and entering their teams into matches.

Super Smash Brothers coordinator Tanner “Kyrie” Thomas hopes he can help put a spotlight on the team by hosting Super Smash Brothers Ultimate tournaments on campus, a series he calls “Respect the Bair.”

“There used to be only one tournament a week with about 20 or so people,” Tanner explains. “Now with Respect the Bair and the tournaments held by Contender, we’re seeing large growth.”

Tanner believes that an increase in membership can lead to an increase in scholarships for their players.

“A lot of us believe that if we attract additional students to the university through esports, we could potentially see scholarships rise.”

Esports is a $906 million industry, with over $15 million in scholarships being offered at around 200 colleges here in the U.S. On top of scholarships, collegiate esports teams can earn money in tournaments, arguably the biggest of which being Collegiate Star League (CSL) tournaments.

A goal of Tanner is for one of their teams to win a CSL tournament, of which the 2019-2020 season prize pool is over $400 thousand. T. Thomas has bigger ambitions, hoping to one day host a CSL tournament at MSU.

“I want one of our teams to win a CSL tournament, or some other event to show how good we are at supporting our players as a university.”

Roman and Tanner can’t do it all by themselves, though. Progress is made with the efforts of the various teams’ members, coaches, and coordinators. In some cases, these three roles may be performed by the same person.

Rohit “RoBoneHead” Utkarsh is the organization’s SMITE coordinator, serving as a member and the sole coach of the club’s SMITE team. Utkarsh is also the social media manager for esports.

Utkarsh, who joined in the summer of 2017, has run social media for about a year. He uses the club’s Twitter account to post announcements regarding upcoming events and results from recent games. As SMITE coordinator, however, he has a much different job.

“I coordinate between our SMITE team and other collegiate teams, as well as the game developers HiRez Studios to enter our team into official collegiate leagues.”

As a senior, Utkarsh hopes to leave behind a solid groundwork for the future of MSU e-sports and make it much more fluid for new players and officers to become part of a team.

“Our organization is made up of people who are very passionate about esports and the competitive aspect of video games. We have had some tough times… but we have powered through.”

The organization’s varsity Rocket League team qualified on January 11th for CSL Open Playoffs, beating Wichita State 3-0. With a season record of 10-2, the team faced UNC Charlotte in the first match of playoffs on February 29, and won 3-0.

“The people on the team have been playing a while, two of them together since high school, so they have some good chemistry playing together,” said R. Thomas before the match. “I feel pretty confident about the first-round match.”

Construction of the esports arena is expected to be completed by the time SOAR sessions begin later this spring.