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City opens new eSports league for residents embracing online games – Columbia Missourian

In the past month, the athletic courts at the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse have been mostly empty in the evenings.

Even on these nights with only a few athletes inside, the building still serves as a hotbed of competition; it’s the venue for the city’s weekly Super Smash Bros. eSports tournaments.

The online video gaming tournaments are organized by Tai Fletcher, a Columbia Parks and Recreation employee who has served as the city’s eSports administrator since March.

“My position actually did not exist before I filled it,” Fletcher said. “(Columbia Parks and Recreation) was interested in having an eSports league. … They wanted to make as direct of a connection as possible with the community and have a subject matter expert on hand.”

Fletcher’s role as eSports administrator functions as an internship position. He’s able to earn the final credits for a hospitality management degree at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, where he attends classes.

The eSports administrator position is classified under the sports branch of Columbia Parks and Recreation, which is overseen by sports programming supervisor Joey Wilmes.

Wilmes is responsible for managing Columbia activities for all outdoor and indoor sports, but he said he’s learned a lot about the value of eSports events through seeing the community excitement toward them.

“I would say it was absolutely crazy to see the amount of money that was being thrown around that people can play eSports,” Wilmes said. “People can play video games professionally, and kids are getting college scholarships to play eSports.”

“There’s not only the social aspect of being in groups and interacting with other kids, but there’s a lot of hand-eye coordination with playing video games. There’s a lot of real-world experiences, just like in (traditional) sports.”

The city’s move to create activities specifically for video games comes after the rise in interest in established collegiate eSports programs locally, including the launch of MU’s eSports program in 2019.

In the upcoming fall semester, MU will pay a $1,000 scholarship to more than a dozen skilled players of popular gaming titles, encouraging these athletes and prospective players to sign on to its program and compete in national tournaments.

In addition, other Parks and Recreation departments across the country have begun to take notice and invest in eSports.

Nationwide, organizations like the National Recreation and Park Association have actively encouraged cities to support and maintain community interest through avenues like eSports.

In Columbia, Wilmes said much of this positive culture shift toward eSports changed when the department hired Fletcher.

“(Fletcher) has done a great job so far, and I think he has aspirations to continue working here even after his internship,” Wilmes said. “He and I have had a lot of meetings going back and forth. I’ve tried doing this before (myself) and wasn’t able to really get it off the ground.”

Conversations about how the eSports administrator role could change or grow as Fletcher moves toward a true full-time city employee role leave him excited and optimistic about the future of eSports event coordination for Columbia.

“If nothing else, I always know that I can match up to the passion I have for this feeling,” Fletcher said.

“I really genuinely love doing this stuff. And I always hope, whether I’m in a suit or whether I’m in a gaming environment, they can feel …….

Source: https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/local/city-opens-new-esports-league-for-residents-embracing-online-games/article_0eb8d37a-1f46-11ed-93aa-3b80d4a12c72.html

In the past month, the athletic courts at the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse have been mostly empty in the evenings.

Even on these nights with only a few athletes inside, the building still serves as a hotbed of competition; it’s the venue for the city’s weekly Super Smash Bros. eSports tournaments.

The online video gaming tournaments are organized by Tai Fletcher, a Columbia Parks and Recreation employee who has served as the city’s eSports administrator since March.

“My position actually did not exist before I filled it,” Fletcher said. “(Columbia Parks and Recreation) was interested in having an eSports league. … They wanted…….

In the past month, the athletic courts at the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse have been mostly empty in the evenings.

Even on these nights with only a few athletes inside, the building still serves as a hotbed of competition; it’s the venue for the city’s weekly Super Smash Bros. eSports tournaments.

The online video gaming tournaments are organized by Tai Fletcher, a Columbia Parks and Recreation employee who has served as the city’s eSports administrator since March.

“My position actually did not exist before I filled it,” Fletcher said. “(Columbia Parks and Recreation) was interested in having an eSports league. … They wanted…….

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