Long gone are the days of sitting in front of the television, furiously smashing the “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and Start” buttons on the controller to gain an advantage.

Today, e-sports are big business and have spread to college campuses across the country, courting a generation of players who have grown up amid an ever-expanding gamer culture.

Kaden Myers’ interest in video games began at a young age, playing “RuneScape” – a fantasy role-playing game – on the computer.

He lists off the consoles that he’s played regularly on over the years and admires how far graphics have come in such a short time, as well as rise of competitive gaming.

“Gaming has and will always evolve very rapidly, especially competitively,” says Myers, a junior criminal justice major. “Before, you’d have to have all the players go to one certain location and hook up to one server. Now, people can play from home (with people from all over the world).”

As president of recently formed MOSO E-sports Club, Myers is excited at the prospect of building a Missouri Southern team to go head-to-head against teams from other schools, and also just to play recreationally with other Missouri Southern students.

“We have close to 20 people (in the club) right now,” he says. “We definitely want to get into the competitive scene, but that isn’t solely what the group will be about. We want to reach students who just want to hang out and play video games.”

Club members, and those who want to just play recreationally, found a place to get their game on this fall with the opening of the Midwestern E-sports Center. Located on the first floor of Beimdiek Recreation Center, the 500-square-foot e-sports arena features 12 gaming stations for students to use.

“Midwestern Interactive, a software and design company in Joplin founded by two MSSU alums, agreed to name our facility,” says Steve Benfield, director of Campus Recreation. “We have a variety of PC and consoles, including a PlayStation 5, an Xbox Series S and Nintendo Switch.”

Games that are currently popular in gaming competitions include “Madden NFL 21,” “NBA 2K21,” “Rocket League” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.”

Having grown up playing video games, Myers says it’s more than about just recreation. It can also be used as a teaching tool, as within his own field of study. The Criminal Justice Department offers a firearms simulation system, as well as an indoor driving simulator.

“I’m super excited about virtual reality,” says Myers. “It’s coming into practical spaces, such as training military pilots. Not that long ago, it would have been unheard of to think gaming could evolve like this.”