Mizzou Esports Builds Virtual Community
By Rilee Stapleton
When students moved back to Columbia this fall, for the first time in a few months they might have felt a bit of normalcy. Going to the store to get school supplies last minute, walking around campus to find classes, going to the Student Center to get textbooks; Students did all of these things in the midst of returning to town, and no matter how “normal” things might have felt for a moment, they weren’t.
The social aspect of college life is simply not the same.
When Mizzou Esports general manager Kevin Reape noticed this, he felt like the program could help. “It made me sick knowing that these students were not going to have their typical Welcome Week events,” Reape said. “It would be more difficult for people to meet each other.” That’s when the idea of creating a campus Discord server was born. Mizzou Esports had run tournaments over the summer as a means to spark some engagement in the midst of a pandemic. For the staff at Mizzou Esports, however, that wasn’t enough.
“I felt like there was something bigger that we could do this semester,” Reape said. “I asked our staff if they could manage a large Discord server for the entire Mizzou community, and everyone said yes, absolutely.” The Discord launched during the first week of classes and was open to join for anyone who calls themselves a Missouri Tiger. It’s upon joining the server, however, that it becomes obvious that the server is open to so much more than competitive gamers. “Our Overwatch coach said it was almost like a virtual quad,” Reape said. “I wrote that down and that’s been how we have described it ever since.”
When one joins the server, they are put into a welcome channel that discusses the rules and provides information about the server. Students are also greeted by a Truman Bot if any questions arise. Shortly after joining, the next step is to navigate to the role-assign and topic-assign channels. This is where the so-called “virtual quad” is open to just about any topic of conversation. Assigning your role lets you choose if you are a student, fan, alum, or future student, and topic-assign lets you pick your interests.
The topics include Anime, Art, Food, Healthy Living, Sports, and more for any and every one to discuss. In a time where social gatherings aren’t possible, Mizzou Esports opened up a virtual alternative.
“The server will primarily be used by gamers at the start, but I think we’ll see other students join and talk about Mizzou football or sharing some cool artwork and videos they’ve made, or anything else,” Reape said. “Just like anything you’d see on the Quad or in the Student Center. Just students hanging out and enjoying their time together.”
The main goal of the Discord server is to be able to bring together the community, whether it be through simple chat channels or possible community nights that would feature tournaments in different games. Other possible events will be giveaways as a way for the Esports team to give back to the community.
While the discord is open to everyone, it will still provide a great space for those gamers who have an itch for competition. “My job is to create a culture of competitiveness and build communities around that through creating teams that can compete under the Mizzou name,” Player Wellness and Development Coach Brady Graves said. “I found that once you build a competitive community, it allows the casual community to flourish.”
The competitive side of Mizzou Esports currently fields teams in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League. This semester’s tryouts were even organized in the discord server. The server will also look to open up club teams in other games, in a similar style that MizzouRec has club sports.
“I think that we do a really good job on the server at creating club-style teams that essentially mirror the way intramural sports work at Mizzou,” Graves said. “Instead of intramural sports like football or soccer, we try to provide that from the gaming point of view.”
The competitive side of Mizzou Esports has definitely done well. After kicking things off in August of 2019, they won a national championship in Rocket League as well as winning tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships through prize money. However, the discord server that the Esports staff provided is so much more than a place for sweaty “gamer geeks” and try-hard players. It is a home for anyone that is a part of the community at Mizzou.
“Give us five days. Post something for five straight days and if after that amount of time you decide ‘this isn’t something for me,’ no big deal,” Reape said. “I think that most students, if they make it a habit and think of it as a way to check in with students, I think we’ll see those students thoroughly enjoy their time in the server.” Whether you’ve never picked up a controller, or you do occasionally to play with friends, or even if you sometimes struggle to put down the controller, the Mizzou Discord is a place for you. Joining the server is free and if it’s not for you, it is easy to leave.
But those that crafted the server and made it what it is now can guarantee that everyone can find a home on the new Mizzou discord server, and they look forward to watching student engagement continue to evolve.
Get started at discord.gg/Mizzou.