As a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Sergio Brack’s parents didn’t want him to leave the house. They were afraid of the negative influence that his neighborhood could have on him, so Brack devoted all of his time indoors playing video games and quickly fell in love with the first-person shooter game Call of Duty.
Brack, a senior sociology major, now serves as captain of the Call of Duty team and head of competitive operations for Ole Miss Esports, a student organization for competitive and casual gamers. Brack’s team lost to Humber College in the Collegiate Call of Duty League National Championship last year and will compete as a part of the second annual Esports Egg Bowl this Saturday at Mississippi State.
Forty five Ole Miss students will compete against MSU in seven different video games for the grand prize trophy. Ole Miss lost last year’s event 5-2. The Call of Duty team is especially eager to avenge last year’s losses.
“I probably spend more time doing things for (Ole Miss) Esports than I do my classwork,” Brack said.
Brack first became interested in competitive gaming when he found the “League Play” game mode on Call of Duty: Black Ops II, where the game matches players from around the world who are equal in skill level to play against each other.
When Brack first joined Ole Miss Esports, there wasn’t a Call of Duty team, so he formed one. He also persuaded other colleges to create their own teams so they would have someone to compete against. The Collegiate Call of Duty League held its first season in 2017.
The league had six participating teams for its first season, most of which were made up of students from different universities competing together. They currently have 96 teams planning to participate in the 2020 season next spring.
Activision, the video game publisher that publishes Call of Duty, licensed the league this year. Without with, Activision could have shut the league down in the past for copyright reasons. Brack said growth is what prompted the media giant to notice the budding organization.
“It wasn’t licensed last year, but then Activision kind of took hold of us and was like, ‘yo, this is dope,’ and then they wanted to get involved,” Brack said.
The league’s championship tournament has not had a prize pool in the past three years because the league was not officially licensed, but this season, there will be a $75 entry fee for participating teams and a $2,500 grand prize for the tournament’s national champion.
Ole Miss Call of Duty lost a 3-2 series in the national championship last season to Humber College after beating the University of Toronto to advance to the finals.
Saturday’s event will consist of a best-of-seven contest with matches for Call of Duty, Rocket League, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and Super Smash Brothers.
The event is free to the public and will be live-streamed for free.
Mississippi State prevailed in last year’s contest 5-2, with Ole Miss only winning events in Call of Duty and League of Legends.
The Ole Miss Rocket League team, which came close to winning in last year’s tournament, feels confident that they can win this year.
Rocket League Chairman Max Hancock said that team captain Trayson Glenn has over 2,100 hours of playing time logged on the game and all members of the team have at least 1,500 hours of playing time logged. Rocket League is a vehicular soccer game in which go-cart-like vehicles compete on a virtual field.
“Over last summer the guys put a lot of effort into what they do; they at least put another 100 hours into the game,” Hancock said.
Brack said that last year’s Esports Egg Bowl was the most fun competitive gaming event he had ever been a part of, which made the loss sting even more.
“The worst part of that day was sitting there and knowing how much time and money administration had put into that event and having to sit there and watch MSU leave with the trophy,” Brack said. “From that moment, I vowed that I would do everything I can to make sure our teams are the best they can be so that we can make this respectable if not win the whole thing.”
Jimmy Palmer, information technology director for the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and esports coordinator for the university, said that Ole Miss Esports is more confident heading into the tournament this year.
“There is a lot of excitement within the teams this year,” Palmer said. “The 2018 (Esports) Egg Bowl was kind of a proof of concept. The members that were playing were not coalesced as a team at that time … I feel confident that we’re going to bring the title back home.”