Wichita State Esports

Episode 17 September 11, 2023 00:33:28
Wichita State Esports
Forward Together
Wichita State Esports

Sep 11 2023 | 00:33:28

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Show Notes

Join President Rick Muma for a conversation about the growth of eSports at Wichita State. Rick spoke with Travis Yang, director of Wichita State’s eSports program, and assistant director Joe Mazzara about Shocker esports, which began in 2019 and quickly became WSU’s fastest-growing varsity program. The “Forward Together” podcast celebrates the vision and mission of Wichita State University. In each episode, President Rick Muma will talk with guests from throughout Shocker Nation to highlight the people and priorities that guide WSU on its road to becoming an essential educational, cultural, and economic driver for Kansas and the greater good.
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 <silence> Speaker 1 00:00:07 Hello and welcome to the Forward Together Podcast. I'm Wichita State University President of Rick Muer. If you're watching this on YouTube, you'll notice that we have a brand new podcast set. I wanna thank our carpentry crew, the folks at Wichita State's Media Resources Center, and our entire podcast team. It looks fantastic. My guests today are Travis Yang and Joe Mazarra. Travis is the director of Wichita State's eSports program. He joined us in 2021 from Texas a and m, San Antonio, where he also served as Director of eSports. Joe was the president of the Shocker Gaming Club from March, 2019 to October, 2020. He is currently a W S U graduate student, has been assistant director of eSports since the program began in 2019. Wichita State's eSports team began in 2019 and quickly became our fastest growing varsity program with the state-of-the-art gaming lab housed in the Heskett Center. Speaker 1 00:01:03 In 2022, the team won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship, and just last month, several players earned top honors from the 2023 National Association of Collegiate eSports, where Travis serves on the board of directors. Hello, Travis and Joe, thank you for being here today. Um, looking forward to learning a lot more about eSports on campus. Um, back in the day when we were putting eSports together, I was involved in some of the original conversations, so it's exciting to see how the, uh, the team and the, the whole area has grown over the last, um, few years. So, so, Travis, can you give us a brief rundown of eSports at Wichita State? What's been going on since we got started? Sure. Speaker 2 00:01:49 Lots, lots happened. A lot of good stuff. Um, couple transitions. Uh, currently we're housed within the College of Applied Studies, um, varsity program competing outta that program. Uh, we've got about, uh, now over 50 students. Uh, good mix, uh, between student athletes who are competing, but also now about a dozen students who are interested in applied learning positions, graphic design, commentary, um, you know, even copywriting. Um, so we've really just been trying to expand our program, uh, focus on student experience and just, uh, make sure we have a good foundation, a good, uh, team culture. Speaker 1 00:02:23 So, when I first started learning about eSports, and, you know, I didn't grow up gaming, you know, I did things like pacman and Centipede, you know, those games and arcades and bars and places like that. So our kids were gamers, but, you know, I still don't really understand half time what they were doing. They were playing games like oblivion are, are you familiar with that, that game? Oh, yeah. Speaker 2 00:02:52 You are very familiar. Speaker 1 00:02:54 Um, so our, our youngest son, uh, he would not come out of the basement for hours on end, and we'd have to entice him out, um, to take him out to a restaurant to get him outta the basement. That's, that's my experience with it. So, uh, but what I've read about it and just learned more about it, you know, it's, it really is set up like a, a a regular professional, you know, sports kind of a, a, a situation where there, there's importance of nutrition and exercise and, and all kinds of other things. Can you, can you elaborate a little bit more? Either one of you? Uh, Speaker 2 00:03:29 Yeah, absolutely. I'll just kind of speak to the, at a broad level. Um, you know, when you look at eSports and you kind of use, uh, traditional athletics as a comparison, it it's very similar, right? You have a professional level, you have collegiate, you have different levels of semi-professional play, amateurism, um, eSports definitely. I think one thing is they're not trying to reinvent the wheel. They see what's worked in traditional sports, and so structurally they try to kind of emulate that. Um, Joe can maybe speak more towards kind of the, the intricacies of it. Speaker 3 00:03:59 Yeah. Um, I think with my traditional sports background, I, I played baseball pretty much my entire life, um, even internationally. So, um, I got hurt and eSports was kind of my outlet for competition. Um, and when we started the program, I kind of took that traditional athletics mindset to a lot of the aspects that we have of the program, which is recruitment, student wellness, you know, competitive preparedness, uh, trying to actually get them competition ready and help them understand, uh, what it means to, you know, body and mind wellness, how that contributes to your performance in the game. Um, a lot of our students played sports growing up, so they have that kind of foundation of, okay, I have my rituals, I know how to get in the right mindset, like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna play great today. And some of our kids don't. They, it's a completely mixed environment when it comes to their actual competitive experience. Speaker 3 00:04:46 So, um, that's been a fun challenge, I think, is to try to acclimate some people that are used to that environment, into the team environment. Um, but at the end of the day, it's competition. Yeah. Um, and what works in traditional sports generally works for eSports. So there's a few, you know, edge cases where it's not the case, but, um, even down to the, uh, psychology of it, it's very similar. Uh, and they respond in similar ways. They have their team rituals, you know, after, after a good thing happens in the game, they all reach over and fist of each other in person. It's just, it's just the tradition that they carry on from their own experiences from baseball or football or, um, you know, just doing what their teammates are doing and following by example. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:05:23 Um, so, uh, can either one of you talk about, um, some of the titles that the team plays, uh, you know, the number of students on a team? You know, I, I think some of the listeners may not totally understand how it works. And again, I'm just telling you that I have a hard time understanding it too, uh, watching people play video games. So talk a little bit about how this works and what's the attraction. I, I understand, I think the attraction that, that the players, the athletes have towards wanting to play the games, but what's the attraction of the spectators and, uh, that sort of thing? Speaker 2 00:06:00 Yeah. Um, again, when it comes to games, kind of, you can think about each video game or each game kind of has its own sport. Um, and you can think of the eSports program, uh, similar to, you know, your traditional athletics department. Um, you know, each game as its own teams that compete in their own seasons. Um, sometimes in the same conferences, sometimes in different conferences, you know, they're competing online, sometimes in person. Um, we know of teams from across the country, west Coast, east Coast. We played against Hawaii and Ohio State a and m, um, schools like that. Um, so again, lots of parallels, uh, again, structurally with traditional sports. Speaker 3 00:06:38 Yeah, Soreno, our program's competing in, uh, rocket League, Valant, uh, Overwatch, super Smash Brothers and Call of Duty. Um, and as far as the spectator draw goes, I think a lot of the draws, um, people who also play the games, uh, who wanna watch people who play the same games as them and, um, learn from it. So it's almost an educational experience as much as, you know, a pitcher might watch their favorite pitcher to see, you know, their pitcher order, or how the catcher's calling the game. It's, it's the same thing, um, especially for games like Super Smash, where there's a Rocket League where the games are so mechanically difficult. Um, it's much more finesse sport, obviously. Uh, they're learning from top players and they're seeing what they're doing in certain situations and, and trying to educate. Now, there is that, uh, kind of an experience of like a fan experience. Um, shocker fans, the shocker eSports fans there, uh, they're rowdy bunches. It's really fun when, when we get on the broadcast and leadership jumps up and everybody's cheering for the, for the guys and girls in our program, it's, uh, it's awesome to see their support. And I think that they just love W Ss U and they love watching us compete against schools that they recognize when we go out and play the Michigans of the world and, you know, beat them or they beat us. It's still, it's still fun to have that kind of experience. Speaker 1 00:07:49 One pull up on, uh, one thing you just said is, um, shocker fans. So how many Shocker fans do we have, uh, participating, watching? Uh, do you have any idea, uh, about that? Speaker 2 00:08:04 I'll say, you know, we run our own broadcast in-house, so we're able to live stream our matches. Um, we always have a joke because when our matches come up on, on the broadcast, there's a noticeable increase in the number of viewers. Um, numbers aren't crazy, but, you know, it might jump from 2030 up to around 70, 80, a hundred if it's a bigger match. Um, our students are often, they have their own friend groups that they're sharing kind of the broadcast with, but also their own families who are tuning in to watch. We've had families come out to meet us at live events, you know, in Kansas City 'cause they wanna support. Um, but also, you know, we have some families who are, you know, outta state and they're tuning in whenever they know that match coming up to the, you know, support their daughters, support their son. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:08:46 So, Travis, you said just a few minutes ago, there's a, or maybe Joe said it, there's a season. So explain that a little bit more. I haven't heard about that. Speaker 2 00:08:55 Yeah, no, absolutely. So every, every game has kind of its own season again, like traditional sports. Um, the only kind of difference there is that we can compete year round. Um, you know, we might have a game like Valant for example, and they might compete in the fall, and they'll also compete in the spring. And then sometimes in the summer, although we don't require it, um, they may choose to sign up for an additional summer league as well, just because they want to keep practicing. If we have new incoming recruits, that's a good time for them to get some playtime in and just meet the other other teammates. Um, but every game is different. And again, um, the seasons are a part of larger conferences. Um, so we may have, uh, two games that compete in the same conference, which organizes the competition. Um, but the seasons are, you know, slightly different. And we may have another two games that compete in a whole different conference. Um, and they have their own seasons, which is, again, different from athletics because, you know, here at Wich State, all sports are generally in one conference. Speaker 1 00:09:49 So could you just explain that a little bit more about the conference, you know, 'cause I think a lot of people, you know, are familiar with, you know, our league, the American Athletic Conference, but you, you play in different conferences depending on what games you're playing, and is that how that works? Speaker 2 00:10:06 Yeah, absolutely. Um, right now the largest, uh, governing body or organizer for collegiate eSports is, it's called N A C E, national Association of Collegiate eSports. They're actually founded by the N A I A, which is a traditional athletic organization. They provide, um, seasons and conferences for all five of our titles. So all of our teams at least compete in that for a level of consistency. But on top of that, for example, we've had teams compete in the E C A C, which is the Eastern College Athletic Conference that is traditionally a conference for N C A A, where they have D one, D two, D three, but they've added on eSports and open it up so that non N C A A schools or, you know, Wichita State, because we compete through nace, we can sign up and, and compete in there. There's no barriers to entry. Um, additionally, a lot of the developers who actually create the video games like Blizzard Riot, um, they also host their own developer conferences. So it's kind of like the official form of competition. So Speaker 1 00:11:02 There's lots of opportunities to, to compete. And did I hear you correctly that there is N C A A eSports competitions? Speaker 2 00:11:13 It's a, it's a little finicky. Um, they've kind of left it up right now to the individual conferences about whether or not they want to bring on eSports within the respective conference. We've seen some, some major conferences, um, you know, kind of, uh, test the waters with it. Joe can speak more towards that. Um, but, uh, yeah, again, through the E C A C, that's kind of their own, um, something that they've tried out and they've had success with it. They now, I think, have 150 schools, maybe more now, that have signed up just for eSports, whereas their traditional conference might only have a couple dozen. Speaker 1 00:11:48 Yeah, I haven't heard, uh, any of, any of us talking about that. And the American Athletic Conference, uh, eSports is not something that I think that that conference is, um, focused on right now, but maybe in, in the future, Speaker 2 00:12:01 I will say, um, we've had some very initial conversations actually with a gentleman Corey out of the American, um, who we've had some conversation with over the past few months. Um, there's definitely still in the research phase, but he's very interested, um, specifically in finding out which member schools right now have eSports programs, kind of figuring out which ones are at similar levels. Um, might be looking to organize some, some show matches and tie that in with some of their traditional championships. Speaker 1 00:12:26 They'll probably bring that to the presidents when it gets a little bit further on. Yeah. Uh, further on down the road. So Joe, you've been, um, part of the team for a couple years, um, and, uh, been involved, uh, uh, uh, in a significant way. What, what brought you here? Um, and you're now the assistant director, is that right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so what led led you here and, and, and what's some of your background that, that would be interesting to our, our listeners? Speaker 3 00:12:54 Uh, sure. Um, so I moved here in 2012. Um, I went to Derby High School. Um, my dad was Air Force, and that's how I ended up here. Um, I distinctly fell in love with Chara Nation. I mean, I was going to all the basketball games. That's, that's, that's the, the peak of soccer, basketball, a recent memory. So that was really fun for me as a high school to be able to go to the games and, and see that kind of atmosphere. So, um, after a little bit of soul searching a few years, I ended up here as in my undergrad. And, um, I got really into eSports. My girlfriend actually introduced me to it. And, um, I was into League of Legends. I wanted to play, I was concerned about my career as a player and what I could do here. Um, I joined, uh, kind of what was the formation of the gaming club at the time. Speaker 3 00:13:39 Uh, I played on a League of Legends team. Um, we beat my brothers team at K State that year, which is like the crowning achievement of my <laugh>, my player shift. Even, even if I had some more high tier competitions, now I have bragging rights for the rest of my life. Um, I was the captain of that team. I was interested in leadership. I was interested in student run clubs, um, and how that worked on campus. Um, so I was elected vice president. Um, around that time is when I was introduced to, uh, Dr. Mark Vermilion and Tyler Levek, when the program was forming. Um, and I was just kind of tapped for the assistant directorship at that time, back in 2019. I started in January that year when we had nothing. We just had an empty office, uh, in like six computers and built it from there. Speaker 3 00:14:23 I mean, the student interest at that time was so high. Um, I don't think it, it was kind of just an immovable object means an unstoppable force situation where something was gonna happen. And, um, we did a really good job. I think what eSports needed at that time was, um, one person in the administration that could make it happen. And luckily we had more than one. We had a lot of support. So that was really a beautiful thing. And, um, to be able to watch the program blossom from that point, literally seeing, seeing it when it was just 12 students in a room, uh, just having a meeting, talking about games that they liked into a full student experience where kids are chasing their dreams. Kids will want to come to W C U to play eSports, um, competitively. It's, it's a really, a dream come true. So Speaker 1 00:15:06 How, how long, um, officially has this, uh, eSports area, Wichita State been in existence? Speaker 3 00:15:13 So I think the first official day of both mine and Tyler's jobs was January 3rd, 2019. Okay. Speaker 1 00:15:20 And, uh, other universities in the state, uh, were we the first, second, third, um, or were we leading in? That seems to me that we were out there in front of people at that time. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:15:33 I'll say it, it's tough to say. We don't have the exact dates. Um, I'd like to think we were head of ku, which now is a VAR C program. There's a structured a little differently, um, but certainly in my opinion, which the state has led the charge, uh, both in the state and now we see kind of the rippling effects in the region. Um, just in the past two years since I've been here, uh, we've seen programs pop up at Washburn, at, uh, Pitt, at Fort Hayes. Um, K State is now hiring ku just rehired a director. Um, but what we find a lot is we talk with, um, community colleges in the state, uh, in Missouri and, and Nebraska universities there as well, where they're constantly reaching out to us to ask questions about, Hey, how did you have start, um, best practices, things like that. So we've definitely had, um, a positive kind of role in our region. They, Speaker 1 00:16:19 You play K State, you play other schools in the state? Speaker 3 00:16:23 Yeah, usually they kind of get sorted into our geographic region, um, conferences and a couple of our leagues are sorted by just geography, as simple as that. Um, I mean, connection being so important from school to school, uh, for competitive integrity sake. Uh, albeit we did play Guam last semester, which was fun. Um, but sometimes it, we get those se uh, serendipitous situations where we get to play KU and K State. Uh, it's a pretty mixed bag depending on which game it is, how it's gone in the past. But historically, uh, we're very competitive with them. I, I'm not sure on exact records or anything like that, but, uh, it's very competitive. We're all, uh, I guess pretty, pretty solid teams. Kus had a great Rocket League program since the inception of, of their program. Um, K State, uh, they're getting there. Yeah, they're getting there. Uh, and then us, yeah, we're, we're pretty much a, a top D one school in almost every sport. So, uh, that's, that's always, that's really fun. Speaker 1 00:17:17 And do you do, do you play virtually or do you go, you travel to those schools? Speaker 2 00:17:22 So, uh, for regular season play, you know, your week to week matches for all the games generally online. Um, we have different travel tournaments that pop up throughout the semester, which are kind of separate from the conference play. Um, and that's when we'll travel where we'll go to. Um, Dallas, we've gone to St. Louis, we've gone to, uh, Davenport kind of in the region, so not too far. Um, you know, if it's 6, 7, 8 hour drive, we'll take a van and we'll take kids over there for a tournament. Speaker 1 00:17:49 I guess it's not virtual play, it's online. Mm-hmm. Live, they get in a bus and all travel together. Yeah. We get other sports team. Speaker 2 00:17:58 Absolutely. We get in a van 15 passenger van, and I'll drive six, seven hours. <laugh> at the St. Louis is eight hours, and then we'll play for the day. And then, um, usually we end up driving back. Um, yeah, the St. Louis tournament, we had to leave, I think at 2:00 AM 3:00 AM to get there for start time. Um, and then we were probably there for 10, 11 hours playing straight. Speaker 1 00:18:21 And then you drove back that same day? Yep. Speaker 2 00:18:24 Yep. I, I took a little, little nap in the van during the day, but, uh, it was, it's, it's, it's always worth it, you know, just seeing how much the kids love it. Speaker 1 00:18:31 So, uh, tell us a little bit more, either one of you, about what, what are the kind of students that are typ typically drawn to this? What's, what's their majors? Um, you know, what, what are, what are, what's their backgrounds? Uh, what, what, can you tell us more about the, the team and what the student looks like? Speaker 3 00:18:48 Uh, I think the beautiful thing about eSports, and this has been our experience so far, this isn't anything anecdotal. Um, eSports really is, I guess, the ultimate level of playing field, right? If as long as you have the same equipment, it doesn't really matter who's behind the screen, you can compete if you're good. Um, we've always been kind of champions of allowing the best to play. Um, the beautiful part about that is that, uh, we have had co-ed teams. Um, eSports is for everybody on campus as far as majors goes as well. Uh, we've seen a really good spread of players. Now, naturally there's a little bit of gravitation towards computer science. Uh, we like to tell the story about our Valant team, where they had just finished playing a match that they won, and all of them exited valant and instantly started working on their computer science program together and started compiling a program they were all working on. Speaker 3 00:19:40 Uh, so that was really cool. Um, but we have kids from all over campus. Um, eSports and gaming in general ties into a lot of fields. Um, the joke I like to make to, to high schoolers when we do our presentations is, Hey, if you're interested in geology, there's studios out there that need environmental artists and consultants about, Hey, what would rock Line Moon look like? How's it supposed to look in this game? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and with that, I think comes just the broader interest. Um, the game design program is also a huge asset, uh, to us, just because people who are interested in game design are probably also interested in eSports or gaming in some capacity. And if they're interested in either one of those, they tend to check out the other mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so that's been a huge interest as well. But we have students from, I think almost every call in, uh, at the university in our program. Speaker 1 00:20:26 So it's not populated by one type of major engineering or business, or just across the board. Speaker 2 00:20:33 Yeah. We, we see representation across all areas. And, you know, we offer scholarships now, and that's spread across the entire campus, uh, which is great to see. And then the last one, I'll just add on to what Joe said, you know, the nature of eSports, and I think kind of, um, our purpose here at which the state is to serve as this kind of interdisciplinary medium where we can interact with all these different programs, all these different areas, these, these departments that maybe otherwise wouldn't have a reason to interact with each other, um, or be, you know, kind of non-traditional. Um, but we just have that way where we can, can reach out to geology department because they've got a professor who's working on a Minecraft world for his students to, to explore, um, and connect that back with game design and the student there who's interested in potentially doing that? Speaker 1 00:21:16 Yeah, so the game design program, which is in the school of Digital Arts, you, you just mentioned that, uh, some of the other aspects of this is that students can get involved in design, the, the marketing, the obviously coaching and student athlete support, um, which makes it, you know, much more broad and more interdisciplinary and, and brings in those other disciplines. So I think that's the, a really cool thing in our, in our game design program. It's part of our media arts degree program, which is one of our, uh, uh, you know, largest or becoming one of our largest programs in, in the university and in the College of Fine Arts, which cool too. Um, so we know that the, the stereotype of a video gamer, um, but there are some real benefits to that. Um, I, I just had recently lunch with one of my colleagues and I was telling 'em that I was gonna interview you, and they were like, I don't get it. What, what kind of skills are they able to obtain through this? What are, what are, uh, or, or are they refining skills that they already have? Can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like in eSports and how this benefits, you know, the traditional critical thinking and that sort of thing as well? Yeah. Speaker 2 00:22:39 For the, uh, our students that compete for our student athletes, a lot of the benefits are exactly what you would find from traditional athletics. Um, obviously the physicality is not there. That's probably the number one difference. But when you look at things like facilitating teamwork, communication, um, being able to provide feedback, um, being able to, to accept criticism, um, all of those things are, you know, those students are working on, are working on that on a daily basis. Um, as we transition to the students who are in volunteer positions or applied learning, you know, they're working on their craft and that they're passionate about where that they're studying, you know, through the lens of, of eSports. Um, we've had students who have facilitated internships, practicums, um, master's projects, PhD thesis work, um, through our eSports program just here in the past year. So it really does reach, um, all across the board. I'm sure Joe can speak more about kind of the benefits from a, you know, sport background. Speaker 3 00:23:35 Yeah. I think it might be a little bit more difficult for somebody who's only experienced that traditional sports, um, to kind of wrap their head around what makes it difficult, what makes it it challenging, at least from a physical perspective. Uh, I played baseball, like I said, my whole life until I was injured and, and literally couldn't do it anymore. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I played international baseball at a very high level. Um, when I started playing League of Legends, uh, I remember, I, I've, I've played in many tournaments, I even in some collegiate, and it was so much more physically exhausting than any baseball game I ever played, um, because of the amount of mental energy it takes just to play at the level that you expect yourself to play. And playing even beyond that, even more so, um, it is very draining. And I know Travis has experienced this as well as a manager and player in the sports that he, um, has done outside of his work here. Speaker 3 00:24:28 But, um, it really does take a toll on you. Like, you, you sweat, you sweat, you, you know, you're, it's a very intense situation. You're, you're talking to your teammates. I mean, you're all microphones, you got headsets and now you can't hear yourself. You have no idea how loud you're being. And sometimes you take off the headset after three or five game series and your voice is completely gone. Um, and you all just kind of sit there and <laugh> and take a, a mental break. But, uh, the amount of strategy, the amount of critical thinking skills that you need to have at your disposal, um, in milliseconds, um, I'm not sure that there's too many mirrors to that in traditional sports. I think the closest that you get is maybe like a hockey goalie or, um, just taking that bat in baseball at like a major league level where it's thousands of a second. Speaker 3 00:25:10 You have to be able to make those decisions, uh, that quickly, uh, the speed of all the games that they play, that and the, the talent of the players makes the games at the level that our students are compet compet at so fast relative to what the casual player might experience that I, I don't think that you could just jump in and, and just do it. Um, it, I mean, our players have practiced for thousands and thousands of hours before they get to, um, our program, um, just to be at a competency level, uh, to where they can start to develop those skills as part of our program and, and exceed their own expectations. Um, yeah, that's, that's kind of something that doesn't really parallel traditional sports. They, they have access to their machines all the time. Um, you know, if I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn't sleep, I couldn't really go to a bat occasion hit if I wanted to, but they can go to their computer and start playing and start competing, um, instantly. Um, so that's one bigger aspect of our job that maybe they don't think about as well, is we have to really meter how much that they're playing so they don't burn out, they don't exhaust themselves, and they have a healthy balance of, you know, sleep school, uh, fun stuff. And then what they do for our program, which is hopefully included in the fun stuff. But, um, you know, that's something that we're constantly working towards is make sure that they have that balance. And Speaker 1 00:26:28 So in a lot of ways, um, uh, it's, uh, more involved in not cognitively your, your, your vision, fine motor skills, all those kind of things that you're, um, using continuously in a rapid kind of fire situation that, um, I'm sure is increases brain acuity. And over time, I don't know if anybody's done studies, uh, about that. Um, but I can imagine that that would be of interest to people over time, what, what this does to individuals, cognitive abilities over time. Um, Speaker 2 00:27:05 We've, we've already, um, just I think in the first semester that I was here, human performance studies, um, Dr. Bell over there, uh, testing almost exactly that thing, kind of using a, a special piece of equipment to test, um, different things about memory, about reaction time. Um, that's something that, uh, there's quite a few people who are interested in studying that. Um, another thing I'll just throw on there, um, towards what Joe was saying, you know, there's some, there's also some unique challenges when it comes to, to eSports that you don't see with traditional athletics. Um, you know, you talk about an 11 hour, 13 hour play day where they're playing matches, back, back, back, um, talking about sports nutrition, you know, you gotta figure out ways to keep them adequately fed. Um, but also how to manage their mental state because, um, in a common eSports game, you will have, you know, over the span of 40 minutes, multiple rounds where you can win a round that's very high intensity. Speaker 2 00:28:01 And then the next round you, you know, 10 seconds later you have to start fresh, start a new round with your team, and you can have a devastating loss in that round. And so you're constantly bouncing back and forth, and it's, for a lot of kids, it's, it's difficult, um, to manage that, that mental state and, and, you know, stay consistent throughout the match. Um, you know, we do see that in traditional off sports, of course, but eSports is just so much kind of more, uh, faster paced. Um, so even for us, you know, we're still always trying to learn, um, talk professionals in the space just to see what we can do to better help them. Speaker 1 00:28:34 So do you see that, obviously this is how the competitions are designed, this back to back rapid pace. Uh, do you see that changing over time because of some of these things that may, uh, cause problems for some of the athletes? Uh, or, or is this just this just the way it is and, and it's gonna be this way going forward? Speaker 3 00:28:58 Well, I think as some of the games have grown, uh, the bigger changes have been just downtime in between matches. So when we play online, it's a little bit more comfortable for them. It's a little bit more like, okay, I'm in my space, I'm playing with my team and there's not really many distractions. So I think it's a little bit easier for them to just kind of take the rollercoaster, uh, games as they come. Uh, but when you play in a live setting, just being able to, to engage with the game fully for 30 to 40 minutes, uh, even in a three game series, and then be able to sit back, drink water, um, hang out and talk about the game, talk about strategy for 15 to 20 minutes in between games. That's been the biggest thing. 'cause the worst situations are if we're at a competition where we have to play a lot of games in a land setting, and they're not getting proper breaks in between, uh, even in between games of their own mattress series. Speaker 1 00:29:49 Yeah. Well, so what's the long-term goals for the program? What do you guys see next? Uh, gonna win the national championship? Speaker 2 00:29:58 Always. That's always the goal. Um, and certainly I think this semester, going into this fall, this has been our strongest recruiting class. Uh, you know, we've had Joe in here and we've been working pretty much all the past year, um, trying to find, you know, the, the right kids. Um, so yeah, always focused on winning. But for me personally, um, you know, knowing the community, knowing the initiatives on u SD 2, 5, 9 side, talking with, you know, schools out in Newton, um, out in Andover and seeing kind of, you know, their initiatives as well. My goal is to just further make Wichita State eSports, um, a resource to them, um, you know, further and better ourselves in the campus community, you know, the local community and the region, um, so that we can just continue to help, you know, these educators who are out there trying to, you know, do the best they can with the, with the resources that they have for their kids. Mm-hmm. Speaker 1 00:30:46 <affirmative>, what about you, Joe? Speaker 3 00:30:48 Oh, recruitment's, kind of, kind of my jive. So I, I know the last year we really blossomed competitively, which was it, it allowed them to have so many more opportunities. They didn't have, um, the Valor team they won, uh, was the Heartland Regional for the Red Bull Canvas Club competition, which is a global valant competition, uh, where the US winners went to Brazil and competed against other countries around the world. Well, we were our regional champions. So we, the team got flown to Texas and got to compete against 13 other teams, uh, from around the country, uh, which was kind of, that's really the pinnacle of Collegiate, um, as it is right now for, for valor and, and our team's capabilities. Um, our SMASH team last semester, um, or actually, sorry, excuse me, in the fall of 22, um, were flown to Philadelphia to compete for a national championship in nace. Speaker 3 00:31:38 Um, so I was kind of worried. They were like, Hey, we got there. You know, that's, that's great. Um, let's settle in. Now we have this ego and whatnot, but, uh, they came back hungrier than ever. They want to return to that spot. They want to be flow flown out to places. Um, being really good gives them a lot of opportunities to go places and experience things that they haven't experienced. Um, I think on that trip to Philadelphia was one of our kids', first times being on a plane. Um, so being able to give them that perspective through their passion and the things that they're good at is something that drives me. Uh, but I know that they were also a little bit sour when they didn't win and, and they wanna win. That's, they're, they're competitors and I'm really excited to see with this new group that we have this year, what they can do. I think that we've improved pretty much across the board of our five titles and, um, there's some really exciting stuff in store for us for the next four years. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:32:28 Well, it's good to talk to you, learn more about this, um, uh, hopefully the, the listeners to the podcast to gain some additional information about what eSports is all about. A lot of people don't know, so hopefully we've educated them, you've educated them, uh, more about that. So it's, uh, good Speaker 4 00:32:46 To meet you and see you and, um, Speaker 1 00:32:49 Uh, have a good semester. We'll, we'll be following you. Speaker 5 00:32:52 Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 4 00:32:53 And thank you all for listening. Join us for our next episode when I'll have the opportunity to talk to Dave iSay, founder and president of StoryCorps. Please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to the Forward Together podcast. Go Shockers Speaker 6 00:33:18 Sponsorship for the Forward Together podcast is provided by Scott Rice, office Works and the Shocker store.

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