eSports Expo brings competitive gaming world to WSU

Clarification: Portions of this story have been clarified to better reflect the thoughts and emotions of the sources.

Wichita State junior Morgan Wills was tasked with setting up the ethernet cables for the Wichita eSports Expo that ran Friday through Saturday.

He worked about four grueling hours cutting and running cables to different computers. Rather jokingly, Wills said his hands were bleeding after the intense set-up. But as team captain for the Wichita eSports Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) team, his hands were vital for success.

The competitive gaming expo required some participants to pull an all-nighter, lasting 24 hours from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Heskett Center gym. Wichita eSports hosted six prize pool tournaments, with the winnings for each totaling $4,000. 

The expo’s biggest feature was Lollapalooza, a professionally casted League of Legends tournament with $2,000 in winnings for the top teams. Teams from Wichita State and other universities across the state were invited to play. Only two came to the expo and many participated over the Internet from home. 

By offering large prize pools, senior Ramsey Jamoul, president of Wichita eSports, said they are trying to establish a good mix of casual and professional gamers. 

“The casual gamers want to just come and see the games, whereas the professional players want to come in, steal everybody’s money, go home and have those bragging rights,” Jamoul said. “If there’s no casual people buying the tickets there isn’t enough money to bring the professionals out.”

This relationship is important, as Jamoul and Wichita eSports are planning a $10,000 prize pool tournament in February. 

“What we’re trying to do with the tournaments here is provide that next caliber of gamers,” Jamoul said.

Putting the expo together required collaborating with all the local eSports and electronics groups, Jamoul said. Cybertron, a now international computer company that started in Wichita, provided 30 gaming towers to Wichita eSports for the expo.

As members of Quickdraw Studios have found, finding fans of video games isn’t too hard in Wichita. 

Quickdraw, one of the vendors at the expo, started when graduate students Nicolas Gallo and Cody Harryman met while taking graduate courses. Gallo and Harryman quickly became friends with engineering degrees and video games in common. 

One night while out drinking at a bar, Gallo had the idea of designing video games for local bars. 

Harryman started Quickdraw Studios soon after, and Brian Foster, a Butler Community College professor of video game design and motion capture, joined the team after meeting them at ICT Game Jam. 

Three months later and Quickdraw had already designed three games, two of which they are making for Hopping Gnome Brewery, a local Wichita bar. One of the games allows four players and consists of hopping around like Mario and attempting to stomp on enemy gnome players.

Wills, the team captain of Wichita eSports’ CS: GO team, enjoys participating in a competitive environment.  

CS: GO is a personal computer game and requires fast hand movements. Wills said he compares eSports and regular sports similarly, as both involve preparation, strategy, teamwork and practice. 

“If you can’t coordinate with your team, you can’t win,” Wills said.

Wills said the team had not been able to practice together for two weeks before competing. Homework piled up for team members and they were not able to get the whole team together for practice leading up to the expo, Wills said.

The Wichita eSports CS: GO team was eliminated from the tournament in the first round, going 0-2 in a best of three set. Wills said he kind of saw the loss coming because of the drop in practice.

Wills knows he would have to sacrifice schoolwork and a future engineering job to have a chance to make decent money as a competitive CS: GO player, but he said that isn’t his goal.

A future career in engineering and computer science is important to him, but so is having fun, he said.

“I’m going to keep trying to get better,” Wills said. “That’s what I enjoy … Now we just need to get good.”