Capital City Esports: Club Q&A

Capital City Esports: Club Q&A

Gabby Bailey, Contributing Author (Journalistic Writing)

The Capital City Esports team isn’t known to many, but for those who do know it, they have made it their home, their family, and their team. Esports is the term used for video games played in a competition style, the E stands for electronic.  These games are played for sport and it is one of the quickest growing sports in high school. The CCHS Esports team meets Tuesday and Thursday of every week.

Going to my first Esports team meeting, I didn’t know what to expect.  I anticipated a smaller group, and I was puzzled over how they were going to run video games in school. When I met the team I was surprised by the sheer number of participants.  According to Mr. Janes, the club’s sponsor, “we have maybe 50-ish members who come infrequently, and a good core of about 20 who come almost every meeting, I’d love to see it grow!” A self proclaimed nerd, Mr. Janes said becoming a sponsor for Esports was just natural for him because of his love for video games. He’s hoping there are more teachers with the same passion who would like to assist with the team.. 

Initially, I planned to interview a few members before writing this story, but upon meeting the team, I found myself wanting to watch and learn more about what they were doing. While I was there, the CCHS Esports team was playing against Warrenton High School in a Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournament. It was thrilling and amazing to see all the teamwork and the camaraderie amongst the team. When people were knocked out, they stayed calm, already anticipating their next move. There was an infectious excitement among everyone who was in the competition room. 

The teams are basically broken down into three groups: PC, XBox and Nintendo Switch gaming.  Each team has its own room in which to play while the PC gamers take over the computer lab.  Games will change based on the seasons throughout the year.  Currently, PC is playing competitive Valorant and Rocket League, Nintendo Switch is playing competitive Super Smash Brothers, and XBox is playing competitive Rocket League.

Although Esports is not a MSHSAA sponsored activity, the team hopes that it will be one day.  According to Janes, the team is a part of MOSEF (Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation) which will hopefully help in laying the foundation for becoming a MSHSAA sponsored activity.  The MOSEF exists to support the growth of scholastic Esports by providing schools with education about Esports and equitable access for students to competitive leagues while promoting a safe and fun experience.  Janes says, “we want to have very clear expectations for what the rules are for in-game play.  For example, not being a toxic person, not being rude or incomprehensible while on game chat, and not spreading nonsense through game channels.”  There are also grade checks for team members throughout the year.  “Gaming is a privilege, just like playing for any other team sport.  There must be accountability.  Students who do not meet grade requirements will have a study hall during Esports until their grades improve and will not be allowed to compete,” said Janes.

I asked Mr. Janes what the most valuable thing his team has learned is, “the ability to work as a team and pump each other up.  These kids have learned patience and how to better control their emotions under pressure.  Many of these kids have never played video games outside of their homes and now have to share controllers and take turns at each game console.  They have really learned how to step up and support each other.”  Janes also said that he hopes that the team can do some fundraisers so they can purchase dedicated high-end gaming computers solely for the Esports team.  

The following interviews were conducted at a Esports club gathering.

Esports Sponsor, Mr. James Janes

Q: I am aware that you are the sponsor for the school’s Esports team, What made you take up the position? And how do you think it will evolve as we move forward? 

A: “I was first approached by a group of students, who are now in the club, saying how they were hoping to start an Esports team here and that they needed a sponsor. I’ve always been a big fan of video games; I’m quite the nerd, it kind of just seemed like a natural fit for me. Esports is one of those really fast growing activities, I really hope in the next year or two at the very most that it actually becomes like a sponsored MSHSAA activity. Then we could get a lot of opportunities for students. When you consider that kids on a softball team, or kids on a basketball team at our school, get lots of exposure and lots of opportunities to show off their skills, this should be no different. These kids in Esports are earning scholarships to go to college, not necessarily from our program, but hopefully, we can build that. Those opportunities are there for kids with Esports–it’s one of the fastest growing activities in high school and middle schools across the country and I just felt it would be a good thing for me to be a part of. Our goal is to grow with each year, [currently] we have maybe 50-ish members who come infrequently, and a good core of about 20 who come almost every meeting. I’d love to see it grow, I’d love to get more teachers involved with this too. Right now I’m just the only one who does it because I’m volunteering my time and I would like to see it continue to grow, when it becomes (hopefully in the next couple of years) a MSHSAA activity, that would really push it into something that more and more schools are going to be a part of.”

Q: Esports can be a team sport and that the group bonds like most sports teams do. What do you think is the most valuable thing your team has learned or a skill that they’ve gained from being a part of the team?

A: “Oh man, the first idea is just like, pumping each other up, like they are all for one basically. Especially with our Smash Brothers crew and we have a Valorant team as well. They practice on weekends, they practice at night together, they get together even when we don’t have meetings to get things ready, so just the camaraderie, just the idea of having a team through video games is pretty powerful. We have matches every week against schools from all around the state, and just having that pride of saying “I’m playing for Capital City High School” in a computer or video game setting, that’s pretty cool. Most of the time you’d have to go out on a football field, basketball court, on the softball diamond, to actually get that feeling of competition against other schools, and some of these kids they might not necessarily be into sports, it might not necessarily be what they want to do, so this gives them that avenue where they can actually compete, you know. It’s a really cool thing seeing the skills and team building, like coaching, some of these kids coach each other non-stop, they’re building each other’s skills in these games, but its kind of an allegory, kind of a metaphor for school in general. We are all trying to achieve some purpose, achieve some goal to be successful in life, it just happens we are trying to do it on the computer screen or the TV.”

Q: I know that all sports teams follow a set of guidelines set under state regulations, similarly to how the Archery team operates under NASP, is there a set of competition rules/guidelines that are required of Esports as well?

A: “So yes, two things, we are a member of the MEF (Missouri Esports Federation), it’s the largest organization of Missouri schools participating in Esports that I know of. I think they just crossed one hundred high schools that participate across the state and they have very, very clear expectations for what the rules are for the games expectations for in-game play, like not being a toxic person, not spreading nonsense through game channels and stuff like that, not getting rude and incomprehensible when you’re on game chat, and stuff like that. Then, within the program ourselves, I have the same expectations for my team as any other team that we have at Capital City, we have grade checks every quarter, if you have multiple F’s you cannot compete against other schools, if you have multiple F’s you basically have to treat the Esports club as a study hall. So it’s a privilege, I view that kind of like every other team, it is not a right to be in Esports, and kind of just to prepare for when we do become a MSHSAA activity, we want to already have a foundation of the expectations. This is a team we are going to hold you as a team to the same accountability as the baseball team, or the same as the girls cross-country team. They should all be on the same field.”

Q: “I’ve heard that you’ve done a couple of competitive events, as well as a couple of meetings a week, what skills do you find are most successful on the figurative Esports battlefield?”

A: “The biggest one is having patience, and being able to control your emotions because sometimes you’re playing against another school who’s had an Esports program for a decade. We are literally in, I would call this our second year of actually having a full Esports program and a lot of these kids never really played video games outside of their home, their bedroom, their living room So when we have to, take turns, and like, “this is not just my controller”, we have to really learn that this is a team, this is not just you doing what you want to do in this one moment, we are a team we have to share we have to work together and without that we wouldn’t be able to operate because at the end of the day we have one device that I have been able to purchase for our club, one Nintendo switch, and we are at the mercy of the business department to let us use their computer labs when they are not using them after school. That’s one thing I’m hoping we can do with this program as we grow, is we want to try and get some sponsors in the community, we’d like to try and get some opportunities to do some fundraising things so that maybe we could get a small handful of computers dedicated just for Esports, that are more top-of-the-line than just the stock business lab computers, not that they weren’t running, or that we couldn’t run what we wanted to on them but going into the business teachers space is a little difficult. As you see we spread out across different rooms on this floor because we don’t really have a dedicated space that we can do it here. I would love to be able to set up like, in a theater or in a room with a big screen on it, we’ve talked about maybe having some events down in the cafeteria, hopefully that will just continue to happen as we grow.”


For Esports members:

Q:  I haven’t heard of any Esports related things in middle schools, so I mostly hear about them from high school ages on up, but when did you first become interested in Esports? And If I may, why did you originally get involved?

Johnathan Isaacs – “So initially I heard about Esports around, probably, 7th grade, whenever I went and visited Columbia College and participated in a Smash tournament they were hosting. That’s whenever I started to kind of want to get involved with Esports, just because it’s always been a hobby of mine, but I realized that it could be more than just a hobby and I could, you know, move on to play competitive, and actually at a higher level than what I was currently playing at.”

Anonymous Member – “I was mainly interested in Esports back whenever I was in middle school, I would say. I was really interested in doing a lot of games in general because I thought it would be a fun way to, just, not have to think about my life, and do something I really like. And then high school came around and I heard about Esports, and I decided to join because it was a nice way to get connected with the people who were also interested in the same things as I was and learn about what they liked, and what games they played, and I could get more games to play as well.”

Eston Jones – “Well, I only got involved in Esports when I came here. As for originally, I did this because 1) it’s gaming and I really love games and 2) it’s a place to chill and be yourself and make friends.”


Q: I as well as many others in the school haven’t heard much of the school’s Esports team, what games do you play for competition? Or games you enjoy playing in general?

Johnathan Isaacs – “So for competition right now we have Super Smash Bros Ultimate and we have Valorant, we are looking to start a League of Legends team but we’re missing either 1 or 2 people to get that going. Next year we will also be doing Overwatch for sure, and we also did Rocket League, but the season’s over.”

Anonymous Member – “I really like this game called Splatoon. It’s one of my comfort games that I really like to play. Some other games Warframe, Minecraft, Smash of course, and Animal Crossing are some other games I really like to play as well.”

Eston Jones – “The game that I play for competition is not family-friendly I would say, it’s Rainbow 6 Siege and Warzone but, I also play a little bit of Fortnite and open-world games, I can’t really think of any right now.”


Q: I know on the global level of Esports, that there are massive conventions, or tournaments held on stages. Do you guys travel for tournaments similar to this or do you dial in remotely?

Johnathan Isaacs – “So as of right now because of Covid, we’re having to play from the school or from home, and just connect remotely, but I do believe that a lot of the tournaments we can’t trend right now because of Covid will be opening up, hopefully, next year, and then we will be able to travel for some other tournaments outside of just the ones that we’re able to do this year.”


Q: What do you hope for the future of the Esports team, currently from previous people I’ve interviewed, you guys are doing a lot of dial-in remotely tournaments, what do you hope from an in-person tournament?

Anonymous Member – “I hope for, in an in-person tournament, so that we can be more in the moment doing something really interesting and cool, and for younger people, like maybe, freshman who are on the team maybe they could experience an actual tournament in real life and be able to, have fun but also be in the moment where its super challenging as well. In the future I hope the club can grow more as the years go by as well.”

Eston Jones – “Honestly if we can get, just a good competition, just in general with good sportsmanship that’s what I’m looking for. It’s hard to think of but, other than good sportsmanship and good competition there’s nothing that really comes to mind. Independence, Missouri would be a good place (for a tournament) because they have pretty good stadiums.”


Q: I have heard of competitive events for high school Esports, what are the prizes for winning tournaments?

Johnathan Isaacs – “Sometimes, it depends on what company you’re going through, a lot of different places host a lot of different tournaments so if you’re going through MOSF, what we are going through right now because of Covid closing everything else. As far as I know, there is not a reward, it’s more of just having fun, playing competitively, and doing the tournament thing. I know St. Louis has tournaments that they want to host but they can’t right now because of Covid, and those tournaments, if we were able to attend them, would have prizes.”


Q: I have heard this from a couple other Esports members, do you personally plan on continuing Esports into college?

Anonymous Member- “I most likely will, because of how fun it is and how nice it is to connect with people. Of course there can be some toxic stuff, like being one of the only female people in Esports club it can be a little difficult but at the same time there are people in there who appreciate me, and like the same things as I do, and it’s really nice to be in an environment where your just able to hang out and play video games.”