The Esports Community: Passion in Play

by Korai Kayim-Yanko

At the end of last Spring semester, Hamline’s Esports Team was deemed “the defunct club of the future” as its fate in a new normal/post-Covid era remained unclear. Less than six months later, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Esports Team signaled a “return of the gaming era.”

What sparked such a dramatic shift? Passion.

In November, the Esports Team hosted Hamline’s first official tournament: Hamline Havoc. Forty-eight players gathered in Anderson Center to compete in the Smash Bros. Ultimate Singles tournament. The team provided free pizza to all players and prizes to the first, second, and third place winners. (Check out the standings on the tournament’s page.)

One of the students leading the team’s resurrection is senior Korai Kayim-Yanko. Below, Korai shares his thoughts on the team’s revitalization and speaks with fellow Hamline Esports officers Charli Adams and June Skadsen about finding their passion in games.

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There’s a camaraderie that develops between those who play the same competitive online video games: discussing new updates and strategies, arguing over which characters they love to play and hate to fight against, and regaling each other with their online exploits.

This is the lifeblood of the esports community.

While such conversations fuel online discourse from content creators who offer high-skill gameplay and in-depth analysis of competitive multiplayer games, it goes far beyond that. The broader esports community may seem naturally inclined to stay within the virtual spaces that surround their online gaming platforms, but those who compete are always looking to connect in person. The challenge of geographical distance and cumbersome (and expensive) hardware doesn’t stop many players from finding ways to play alongside one another.

The value gained by being together in play can’t always be achieved through the Internet, even for games designed to be played virtually.

When we (team president Colby Wong and myself) revitalized the Hamline Esports Team at the beginning of the semester, our goal was to provide resources for students to come together through games. Access to our hardware tends to initially draw members in, but they stay for the relationships that develop from a shared passion for playing as part of a community. We foster opportunities for this through our club room, organized teams, and events such as Hamline Havoc so that members can make the most out of their esports experiences as possible.

I spoke with two of our officers, Charli “Charbotron” Adams and June “Rayne!” Skadsen, about their experiences playing games, how these have shaped who they are today, and what they would like to see for the future of esports at Hamline and in the gaming community more broadly.

KK-Y: What are your earliest experiences with video games? How long have you played?

Charli Adams: Growing up I didn’t play a ton of video games, but I did see my brother playing them a lot, and I spent a lot of time watching him play. He left his Playstation [One] behind when he went off to college so I played Crash Bandicoot and Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage and Year of the Dragon, stuff like that.

June Skadsen: I’ve been playing video games since I was pretty young, but as soon as I played my first fighting game, everything changed. Playing Mortal Kombat 9 with my family sparked a competitive spirit in me that never went away. Ever since then, I’ve been diving head first into Esports and the FGC [fighting game community] as a whole. I play all sorts of games, but fighting games have a special place in my heart. Plus fighting games and Esports go hand in hand, a match made in heaven.

KK-Y: When did you get into Esports? What made you interested in this side of gaming?

CA: For the past year I’ve been participating in an intramural draft league that was originally through the University of Minnesota and was open to non-students. I think there can be fun within competitiveness, but it doesn’t have to all be about winning. That’s kind of my goal, at least for the Overwatch team [I play on]. I mean it would be fun to win, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the objective.

JS: I only really began competing in video games and taking them and the scene seriously during late 2018, early 2019.  Esports to me is more than just gaming at a high level and winning. It’s about the community, the passion, the stories, all of it. There’s just something about seeing all of this… it just makes me get hype and really passionate. And the community is accepting and always trying to be more inclusive for folks.

KK-Y: What do you hope for the future of video games, Esports especially?

CA: Going forward it would be really cool to see more participation from other girls. And maybe [Hamline Esports] trying to come up with some events or something that incorporate games that might interest more women, because I think for a lot of girls playing FPS [first-person shooter] and online games can be really, really difficult. There are a lot of girls who play games but not those kinds of games. I know a lot of events are based around things like tournaments, like we with had the Smash Bros. tournament, but I think seeing some more inclusiveness would be a really cool thing for me.

JS: While I’m on the Esports Team, I want Esports at Hamline to be taken seriously, I want inclusivity and community building, and most of all, I just want people to chill and game. It should be a place for everyone, casual [players] or not. I want Hamline Esports to grow by going to tournaments, doing scrims, marketing ourselves, and just getting better in general. Only thing I have left to say is [to people thinking about getting involved with Esports]: Support your locals, go to tournaments, get good, and be you. Don’t let any of these scrubs hold you back. It’s your life, you live it. You can’t just wish for things to magically happen the way you want them to. You gotta make it happen. So go ahead and just take the leap and don’t look back.

Be sure to follow the Hamline Esports Team on Twitter @HamlineEsports and join them Discord using this link.