With the end of the semester comes the almost one year anniversary of the Missouri Western Griffon Esports program, that year has been packed full of successful events, several different varsity wins, and momentous occasions for the program such as the stadium’s opening. With dozens of successful endeavors under its belt it’s important to look at what the program has accomplished so far, what the programs up to now, and what’s next for Griffon Esports.
Let’s start with a blast from the past back to the grand opening of the esports arena on March 4. The night consisted of large crowds, news outlets and a whole lot of gaming for a 24 hour livestream that focused on collecting donations for the charity Extra Life. The night resulted in $1,600 raised and as Coach Christian Konczal explained still reigns supreme as his highlight of the program so far.
“It showed how much we appreciate what we’ve been given, the opportunities that we have [in this] this generation, that my generation would have killed for. It was very satisfying to see that the group of students that we have here care that deeply about giving back so that was my favorite event.”
In recent news the program won big earlier this month at the Student and Organization Achievement Recognition award show.At the show, the Esports programs work with the 24 hour charity live stream paid off bringing them home the new program of the year award. Coach Konczal explained that the award was a indicator that what the program and its students have done so far is working.
“It’s another signal that what we’re doing is having an effect. People are aware of what we have going on but there’s so much more work for us to do to grow those general levels of awareness,” Konczal said. “The general knowledge of, you know, even the basics of what eSports is why they’re important. We definitely have our work cut out for us, but the SOAR award and everything else we have going on and the response that we’re getting are strong signals that what we’re doing is working. We just need to keep pushing forward.
On top of giving students a semester full of events to attend, and games to play the program has also been working to draw in new students as well.
Among these students is Adam Clow, a student and "Rocket League" Varsity member who explained how the new program is what had actually led him to choose MWSU as the university he would attend.
“I was looking for a way to pay for college in summer of 2020 when I found the MWSU Esports program launching in the fall on the school website,” Clow said. “I was just browsing for possible schools but I saw that they were going to have a "Rocket League" team so I was pretty much sold at that point. "Rocket League" is my favorite game; I have thousands of hours in it. I made it to Varsity after a summer tryout session.”
With new students joining and current students getting involved in the program it has led to a variety of successes ranging from several events for every student to the success of the many different varsity teams and players.
At the beginning of April the Griff Gaming Series began, an event promoting all students to participate in a different game for four weeks in order to receive Griff Coins which are used at the stadium gift shop. The event has found massive success so far with its first week of "Mario Kart 8" and its tournament having a high turnout, and its "Minecraft" and "Roblox" weeks both receiving many submissions of builds and speedruns on its Discord. The final week of the event began yesterday with this week featuring the popular battle royale "Call of Duty: Warzone." Konczal explained the main goals of the event.
“The GG series was something that our volunteer moderators through the official Discord channel put on and one of the things that I tasked them with was putting out an event series that was targeting the more recreational gamers. Again, in an attempt to just reset the cloud of confusion and let people know, all this is for everyone,” Konczal said. “A lot of people who weren't in the arena or maybe weren't even coming to campus and have been taking remote classes actually came in to participate in the ["Mario Kart"] tournament at the end of the week was a ton of fun.”
On top of the Discord team setting up events, the recently formed "Smash Brothers" club has been keeping busy as well hosting two meetings a week, as well as hosting their second public "Smash Bros" tournament last Sunday that was streamed to Twitch. Earlier this month a "Call of Duty" club was created which has begun hosting its meetings and hopes to compete in the future as its president Cody McLaughlin explained.
“The club attendance has been pretty good. We meet every Saturday at 7 p.m. online but are hoping to do it in person next year. I envision in the future that my club along with the other clubs will be varsity and that we will be a very well known college esports team and be able to travel all over the country participating in high skilled tournaments and leagues.”
On the more competitive side of esports the varsity teams having been heavy hitters this season facing off against and being invited to compete against other schools with well established esports programs. Among these tournaments was the NACE Spring Cup Finals for "Fortnite" where varsity members Tyson Koch and Hector Lugo fought to bring glory to the program. After putting up a good fight with some intense plays the "Fortnite" duo scored Missouri Western eighth place. Konczal explained that making it to NACE as a first year program was a real testament to the team's hard work.
“NACE is a very large Collegiate Esports organization based out of Kansas City. It's very significant that our first year, we're already hanging with universities that are more established,” Konczal said. “We're about a year or two ahead of where I thought we'd be at this competitive level. So it's very much a testament to just how hard Tyson and Hector have been working. They've been grinding and are beyond solid esport athletes, and they are doing their team, their program and university a giant service.”
NACE is just the beginning for the varsity teams as the "Rocket League" varsity team Adam Clow, Brandon Burgess, and Noah VanCleave have begun competing in the Collegiate Esports National Championship. Konczal explained that only 16 teams were invited and on top of competing in the CENC they also faced off in the Extra Life Dreamhack Championship with Missouri Western taking home the win.
With a semester full of new clubs, popular events and the varsity teams hitting way out of their weight class, the only place to go from there is up as we take a look at what the future of the program has in store. Coach Konczal explained that the program has had an amazing start but as with every new concept always has room for improvement.
“We're constantly evolving, we're constantly trying initiatives, reflecting on successes and failures, analyzing what we can be doing better, and then acting on it. So there's literally hundreds of changes I want to bring to next year,” Konczal said. “But it all goes through, 'okay which ones are actually feasible which ones are higher priority than others,' you know, that sort of stuff. We're a very new program, we're growing rapidly, and we're very ambitious. So yeah there will always be a constant state of changes happening in our program.”
With the end of the semester comes the long awaited summer days and the question of what does the arena do during that time? Konczal explained that while not all the answers are there yet that students needn't worry about getting in some game time.
“At the moment it looks like it'll be open by appointment. I'm going to be working here, my regular hours anyway so if any students are around and they want to come in and use it, we can absolutely make that happen. We probably won't be just open the way we are now though. We definitely plan on hosting events to keep people engaged throughout the summer. It's very much, whatever the students want, or are interested in. Varsity games will continue playing together, the clubs will continue playing together, we will be running summer camps and we will definitely be staying busy over the summer.”
If there is anything to take away from the past, present and future of Griffon Gaming its that this program is doing its parts to keep students engaged on campus and have a community that they can feel a part of.