By Nickolas Carroll, Mizzou Junior studying Strategic Communications
With the overwhelming success of the three varsity teams, Mizzou Esports is looking to expand and provide a platform for every gamer at Mizzou to interact and compete. One avenue that is being explored is the competitive Super Smash Bros scene. Smash has always been around the University whether it was students playing in their dorms, or local tournaments held for students and other Columbia gamers. The growing popularity of the latest installment in the series, Smash Ultimate, and the unique situation caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic have offered a great opportunity for the program to develop.
Scotty “Kiodahawk” O’Dell took it upon himself to create a team to represent Mizzou and compete in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). He has been playing the series his whole life and used to have tournaments with his friends on the weekends. He always just played for fun until a ranked player from Kansas showed up to the tournament that he hosted and dominated the competition. “That really got me motivated to get better in the game, so that got me into Smash tournaments in Kansas City and the Mizzou Smash scenes,” said O’Dell who has since created the Mizzou Black and Mizzou Gold teams. He said, “I made the team because it’s a great opportunity to get exposure for our smash players here at Mizzou and the scene as a whole. It also gives all of our players on the crews the chance to play against people across the United States and represent the University of Missouri.” The formation of the two teams has done just that, and members have become friends outside of the club.
Christopher Nathan “Radish” Conrad, is part of both Mizzou Black and runs Track for the University. He mentioned that even though he is busy with school and athletics, “I still find time to play with the guys, and we actually hang out outside of the team.” Radish has been playing Smash competitively since 2015 and was excited to hear about local tournaments and the club when he became a Tiger. While he doesn’t have enough time to commit as much as some of his teammates, he loves to compete and talk to the guys as much as he can. Unlike many other members of the club, Chris studies Business Management, he hopes to open a gym when his Division One athletics come to an end after college.
Another Smash player interested in athletics is Ali “Big Al” Dowlatshahi, and he hopes to put his Computer Science degree to work and join an NFL team as a data scientist. For now, he focuses his competitive energy towards competing for Mizzou. Unlike Radish, Big Al never competed in esports until his sophomore year when Kiodahawk told him about the team. He has been involved ever since. “It is more for fun than anything but we have that competitive drive, I know people in our pools now so when tournament day rolls around I know who I want to beat,” he said. Like other club sports, the main focus is on having a good time and enjoying the sport but Ali wants everyone to know, “It’s not easy, this game has a lot of depth and we work hard, most people don’t realize that.” He hopes to place high when the tournament schedule returns to normal.
The in-person competitive scene has been on pause while the pandemic keeps gatherings small. Smash has traditionally been a game that is played in person rather than online, so players have had to adapt for the time being. This semester, the focus is turned towards the NACE Fall League where both Mizzou Black and Mizzou Gold will be competing in different pools. Expectations are high for Mizzou Black, with four of five members boasting win rates over 50%. On top of placing high this semester, Kiodahawk and the rest of the club want to continue to grow and show that they are good enough to be the fourth varsity esports team for Mizzou Esports.