September 26, 2016

A smashing good time

By Dave Rother

What started as a small group of friends meeting to play video games has now become an official club with over 80 members. It’s not quite like the video game club; the Webster Fighting Game Community (WFGC) is for Webster University students who are passionate about playing video games competitively.

Alexander Bonney, president of the club, started up WFGC in December 2014 when he realized how many students from this year’s freshman class wanted to take their shared hobby to a competitive level.

“This is something that I’ve wanted here at Webster since I came here,” Bonney said.

Over 50 competitive video game players assembled in the conference room of Emerson Library on Friday, Jan. 16 to compete in the first event held by the WFGC: a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament. Local gamers joined students from Webster and Washington University (WashU) to compete in the digital brawl.

Bonney said the WFGC raised over $100 for the prize pot by collecting an entry fee at the door.

The WFGC is a part of a growing trend of e-sports clubs on college campuses. “E-sports” refers to organized competitive video gaming. Associated genres typically range from strategy games, fighting games and first-person shooters.

The WFGC, as its name suggests, focuses on the fighting-game genre. Currently the group highlights a few series in particular: Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter and Guilty Gear.

More than 50 students gathered at the first WFGC event on Friday, Jan. 16 to play video games and compete for the $100 prize. / photo by Chloe Hall

More than 50 students gathered at the first WFGC event on Friday, Jan. 16 to play video games and compete for the $100 prize. / photo by Chloe Hall

Growth of e-sports

WashU was the first university in St. Louis to have a competitive e-sports club, and was the only one before WFGC. Generally, the clubs compete in fighting-genre video games, and participate in local events outside of universities as well.

“Schools like UMass Boston, Rutgers, Cornell, Columbia, Penn State and MIT all have collegiate e-sports teams too,” Bonney said.

Kevin Darnold, a freshman member of the WFGC, said the club has brought a new competitive activity to Webster.

“I truly believe that e-sports are something that our university should embrace,” Darnold said. “The fact that schools like Washington University are supporting their gaming scene is great, and Webster was missing an opportunity to do the same. The press that WashU gets from hosting tournaments is something that I don’t think should be understated.”

Evansville University (EU) in Indiana has had their e-sports team organized for over three years now. Nick Leighty, a freshman at EU, is a new member of the team.

“I didn’t really fall in love with any other club here on campus on my first look,” Leighty said. “When I saw the e-sports club and found out what they were all about, I knew I was going to join. I think that a group like this is important to have at schools because it’s a community-building kind of thing. Most of my friends are people I’ve met at our club meetings.”

Future of Webster e-sports

“I think it’s kind of cool that there’s a group like this at school,” WFGC member Joe Keller said. “I’m not really good at fighting games myself, but it’s awesome that they have a group for it.”

The WFGC is holding tournaments every other Friday in the Library Conference Room until the end of the semester. Bigger monthly tournaments featuring more games and more players are planned to happen in Sunnen Lounge.

“Webster is well-placed to be a forerunner on the booming community of competitive video games,” Bonney said. “We have a long way to go before we are on the same level of any of those other universities, but the work starts here.”

Check out the Webster Fighting Game Community Facebook page for an event schedule, and watch the tournaments live every other Friday at twitch.tv/socostreams.

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