As competitive gaming becomes a more prominent source for entertainment and competition, Missouri State University has made plans for a new arena dedicated to the sport in the Plaster Student Union.
Esports is where participants play video games competitively.
The games played range from “Super Smash Bros.,” a cartoonish fighting game, “Rainbow Six: Siege,” a more realistic tactical shooter game, “Rocket League,” a soccer game using cars and “League of Legends,” a popular online arena battle game.
According to the “League of Legends” coordinator, junior history major Joseph Merrick, MSU has a lot of talent in its organization.
“We have a top 100 ranked ‘Rocket League’ player and a top 1000 ‘League of Legends’ player,” Merrick said.
Previously, the MSU Esports organization, which is comprised of multiple gaming teams, had to reserve various spaces around campus or host games online for practice. In addition, their ability to host events has been severely limited according to current President of MSU Esports, Roman Thomas.
“Every once in a while we’ll host an event like our recent 'Smash Bros. Tournament Fundraiser',” Thomas, junior geology major, said. “We’ll grab a room, we’ll advertise it, but we haven’t been able to do anything regularly.”
Thomas said the new arena should mean more consistent events from the esports teams as well as the possibility for Local Area Network events which involve the teams being connected directly to each other as opposed to a reliance on the internet.
According to the Super Smash Bros. Tournament fundraiser coordinator, junior computer science major Tanner Thomas, the arena will have a row of computers on each side wall with two TVs set up in between for games not on computers.
Some of the coordinators have expressed more excitement to use the arena as a practice space instead of events.
“The main draw for my teams is having a place to practice consistently… last year my team had to forfeit one of our matches because the power for Springfield went down briefly so our players who live off campus couldn’t connect," Merrick said.
Thomas stated this is the first sign that esports is being taken more seriously by the university.
“It’s a good first step,” Merrick said. “In the North Conference, just in the state of Missouri, Columbia College and Maryville University have put larger amounts of money into their esports teams so we’re a little behind the curve.”
“I’m currently working with a few people from the university like the Vice President of Student Affairs Dee Siscoe and a few others to coordinate the expansion to our organization,” Thomas said. “(University) President Clif Smart has been the one to really push for esports and is definitely our biggest advocate.”
According to Thomas, Smart expressed interest in esports after visits to Columbia College and Maryville University, which has some of the best teams in the region.
“I believe he wants to push us to compete with the other schools in the area to try and get more people to come to school here,” Thomas said.
According to Tanner Thomas, one of the arguments they originally proposed to the university was that they were significantly behind other universities in funding.
“The number one problem we’re facing right now is awareness,” Tanner Thomas said. “A lot of people I talk to, from upperclassmen to incoming freshmen, have no idea we’re a thing.”
In addition to the physical expansion of esports, they are also looking into expanding their teams to games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Player Unknown’s BattleGrounds, Fortnite and Call of Duty.