Missouri State reopens gaming center with esports expansion

Missouri State has reopened its gaming center and anyone can play, not just college students.

As you enter the Plaster Student Union’s Level 1 Game Center, a line of monitors display various games that people play using personal computers, otherwise known as PCs.

Spectator seats are arranged so viewers can see the latest play as players compete. Further in the room, table football, table tennis and three Nintendo Switches are also used by the players.

MSU, along with other schools like Drury University and Ozarks Technical Community College, are competing for the top spots with the National Association of Collegiate Esports. The association’s video games include great titles, such as League of Legends, Rocket League, Overwatch and more.

Missouri State University celebrated the reopening of the Level 1 Game Center, which now also houses multiple PCs and more for esports.

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The Level 1 Game Center is giving its varsity and junior varsity esports teams 12 PCs to compete in tournaments throughout the school year and continually improve their own skills, said MSU esports coordinator Trevor Long. .

“It happens like normal sports,” Long said, with MSU esports hosting some sort of Monday-Wednesday game each week. The summer could see opportunities for training camps to help young players, he added.

The gaming center and its equipment aren’t just for MSU students, Long said. Audience members can pay by the hour for $5 and play. The Level 1 Game Center is open from noon to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Missouri State University plaster student union director Terry Weber greets the crowd to celebrate the reopening of the Level 1 Game Center, which now also houses several PCs and more for esports, on September 6, 2022.

Esports brings competition and community together

Sophomore Phoenix Bay was taken by surprise when she transferred to MSU and found she could still play her favorite game with esports teams.

Valoranta first-person shooter developed and published by Riot Games for Microsoft Windows, offers diversity with every character, from nationality to gender, and Bay enjoys playing on the team.

“It’s about the fun shooting abilities that you don’t get in real life,” Bay said. “It’s about the cool lightning or energy abilities you can get in order to take him out of a real world and put him almost like a fantasy guy.”

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Phoenix Bay, a sophomore criminology student at Missouri State University, shares her excitement for the reopening of Level 1 Game Center on September 6, 2022.

Bay, who first played at Drury University, started playing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t deviated from the game since.

“I didn’t expect there to be so much support for esports because it’s something that I think is often overlooked by real physical sports,” Bay said as the room was packed with dozens of people attending the reopening on Tuesday. “It’s exciting to see that people are interested in it and are willing to invest so much money in it for their students in particular.”

There are scholarship opportunities down the line, which Bay says is a plus, but the main reason is to have fun while playing at a competitive level.

“I play because I make some of my greatest friends out of them, which sounds really corny, but it’s true,” Bay said. “It’s really nice to be able to connect with people you’ve never met before and then, at the end of the day or the end of the game, go out and have dinner or go out and have milkshakes. It’s about bonding as a team as much as it’s about the game for me, at least.”

Esports is just one more way to find community, Long said.

Missouri State University celebrated the reopening of the Level 1 Game Center, which now also houses multiple PCs and more for esports.

“There are a lot of people who never really find their social groups, especially in a place as big as the state of Missouri,” Long said. “It provides an avenue for many players.”

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Although there are social stigmas surrounding gambling, especially in the 80s, 90s and beyond, Long said it was becoming more and more socially acceptable to gamble.

“A lot of this new generation loves playing games together, loves sharing those experiences,” Long said.

Opportunities to learn soft skills such as communication, problem solving and more are created as players put in their time, Long said.

“It’s not easy to be at the top level, so it also teaches a lot of those skills, which you wouldn’t get anywhere else,” he shared.

“Being able to compete in person is much more exhilarating…”

Roman Thomas is in his final year as a geology major at MSU, but this week marked his own milestone.

Roman Thomas, a geology graduate from Missouri State University, is the president of the esports club.

As president of the esports club, Thomas shared with the crowd how a group of MSU students wanted to play League of Legends and formed their own team about six years ago. The exact date they were declared an esports club is a bit ambiguous, but Thomas said it happened at least in 2017 or 2018.

The game center was a small space on a different level from the plaster Student Union with only a few computers for people to play with. There was talk of expanding the space; however, the pandemic has slowed any change as currency belts have been tightened, Thomas said. Finally, the talks turned into action and the space was completed.

Missouri State University President Clif Smart reviews the newly reopened Level 1 Gaming Center September 6, 2022.

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“Being able to compete in person is much more exhilarating than competing online from home,” Thomas said. “When you score a goal or win a game, you can just turn to your opponent and just punch them and get that sense of community with your team.”

Thomas usually plays rocket league and occasionally connects to League of Legends and others. He continued the same message previously stated by others that this environment brings a community together.

“It’s the same as any other sporting hobby you’ll have, where you have your teammates and friends playing with you and you know how they play, you know what to do, like in football,” Thomas said. “Having a sense of community, being able to work together in person in a really comfortable environment, that’s what I think it’s all about.”

Learn more about Level 1 Game Center and the MSU esports club by following:

Sara Karnes is an outdoor reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow his adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Do you have a story to tell? Email him at [email protected]

Missouri State University celebrated the reopening of the Level 1 Game Center, which now also houses multiple PCs and more for esports.