By: Nickolas Carroll
The newest edition to Mizzou Esports is the Valorant Club team. Though they are not considered a varsity team yet, they are representing The University of Missouri in two different leagues this fall; NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports) and CSL (Collegiate StarLeague). The new first-person shooter is all the rage in the gaming community and competitive gaming scene, and Mizzou’s team looks to be at the top of the pack to start out the inaugural season.
It all started when, senior, Jacob “ICanFlyJake” Higgins realized that other students were playing the new game and loving it just as much as he was. He represented Mizzou as a member of the PUBG (a first-person shooter, battle royale game) during his freshman year, and saw his opportunity to do so again. He posted a poll in the Mizzou Discord server trying to gauge interest for positions on the team. He was excited to view a few responses but was surprised when he realized that they were all from incoming freshmen. At first, he was hesitant, and rightly so, he had left his PC on for days in order to get a beta key for the game; he wasn’t just going to let anyone on the team. He invited the freshman to play a few games together, and this is when he found out he was actually among the lowest-ranked players among the group. He thought, “Maybe we can actually win some games and build a program here.”
Peter “Peter?” Kim is a Columbia native who played competitive esports in high school. He attended local Rock Bridge High School and was a member of the Overwatch team, an experience that persuaded him to look for a competitive team when he made his way to college. “It was a lot of fun, winning, and losing, always trying to improve and being around the mentality where everyone wants to improve.” Kim reminisced. He decided to live at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and mentioned how difficult it is to meet new people during this time, “All my classes are online and since I’m living at home I have to commute to campus if I want to meet anyone, it’s all just awkward, so it’s nice to have the team as my connection to people at Mizzou.”
Jason “Sugar” Mickle has had a similar experience during his short college career. He said, “With COVID and all it’s pretty hard to go out and meet people, the team hasn’t actually met in person yet but everyone knows each other pretty well.” He has had a little more luck, meeting some friends while in the line at the university dining hall, Plaza 900. “Everyone is in the same boat which makes everyone want to meet people even though it’s weird at first.” Mickle highlighted. Unlike the others, he manages to stay pretty busy, when he’s not doing work for his pre-med classes or hanging out with his dining hall friends, he is honing his Valorant skills either in the game or on a third-party software called AimLab which is dedicated to increasing in-game precision and reaction time. He has always taken video games pretty seriously but when Valorant was introduced he saw an opportunity to be at the top since everyone is starting on square one.
Unlike the others, Devin “stldevin” Donnelly wasn’t sold on the Valorant hype and he didn’t even play in the beta like the millions of other players. He just kept playing CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) up until the release of the full game in June. He said, “I thought it was going to be dumb, with abilities and stuff. It actually grew on me.” When he started to enjoy the game he looked to play competitively, “I wanted to get better and it seemed like the way to get better was to play with a team against other teams. Everybody likes winning but I like winning a little more than other people I guess, so it made sense.” Donnelly loves that competition, when asked about how this school year is going to go, his focus was on the team, “We are going to win NACE I know that!”
The final member of the team is very dedicated, to say the least, Blake “BlakeWhoIsYourBuddy” Kronsbein spends hours in practice mode finding new spots and angles when he is bored. He was a big fan of Counter-Strike, with over 2,000 hours played and many more watching on YouTube and Twitch. When Valorant was released it was his chance, “Everyone has the dream to go pro, and if I can’t do that playing collegiately is still better than just playing solo. You know we can trust each other, which makes it so much easier” He mentioned. Even if Blake’s dreams to go pro don’t come to fruition he always has a backup, to work for his family’s company.
With the youthfulness and potential of the four freshmen paired with the wisdom and leadership of Jacob Higgins, the Mizzou club Valorant team has high hopes. Starting off the inaugural collegiate season 3-0 has them set up right where they want to be to eventually become a varsity team in the schools’ esports program. Soon every college in the nation will be circling their matchup with Mizzou on their calendars.