When Landon Frank graduated from DeKalb High School last December, he began seeking an internship in Fort Wayne.
Little did he know that when he reached out to Justin Sheehan, Founder of Crown Jewel Marketing at 3414 N. Anthony Blvd., he would end up launching a venture of his own.
“At our first meeting, Justin told me he doesn't really offer internships,” Frank says. “However, he was very interested in my story as a top gamer in the state.”
Since Frank was nine years old, he has been passionate about video games, like Super Smash Bros, which he plays for fun and for sport.
“I got into competing when I was around age 13-14,” Frank says. “I traveled across Indiana and the country for tournaments during the last few years and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state.”
However, in recent years, Frank has been running out of local tournaments to play in. So upon meeting Sheehan, he ended up pivoting from competitor and internship-seeker to working with Sheehan as his mentor in organizing some of the largest esports tournaments in the state, right here in Fort Wayne.
“We came to the vision to host the largest gaming tournament in Indiana history together,” Frank says. “It started out with our first weekly tournament on Dec. 11, right in Crown Jewel’s office.”
They call their group, the Odyssey Esports, and their mission is simple: Host tournaments, weekly community game nights, and free-play for anyone who wants to participate in Fort Wayne and beyond.
“Whether you are just getting started, or a seasoned-gaming veteran, the Odyssey is your esports home,” the group’s website says.
Since that first tournament in December, Frank and Sheehan have hosted weekly meetups as well as two more large events with 100 players each at the Greenhaus (venue) and Wunderkammer Company.
“I operated all tournament logistics, marketing, and everything about the game,” Frank says. “Justin was key in securing our venues, supplies and funding, as well as being a great mentor the entire time.”
On July 8, they’re preparing to host a premiere Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournament that is expected to draw 150-200 players from across the Midwest to compete. The tournament will be held at the GE Club at Electric Works, and the top two players will be awarded paid trips to a major tournament in August, known as Super Smash Con 2023. (Signups have closed, but stay tuned for future tournaments and events.)
We sat down with Frank to learn more about his mission to spread the power and joy of competitive esports in Fort Wayne.
Tell us more about the Odyssey Esports. What games do you play, and how has the group evolved since it started?
LF: The Odyssey Esports hosts a wide variety of games, mostly consisting of fighting video games right now. Our largest game, by far, is Smash Ultimate. This is the game that we started and based our player base around. Most of our original players came from the Fort Wayne Smash community, which has been looking for a home for a while since Hotsauce Games (a gaming store) shut down. We had rotated between four venues in the span of about a year. Just this month, however, we have expanded into Super Smash Bros Melee and Street Fighter 6! We have found different player bases in Fort Wayne who are also willing to attend our tournaments.
While these tournaments are a little smaller than Smash Ultimate, usually hosting 10-15 players instead of 20-30, we are glad to provide a home to these communities! We still have open days at the venue for other games to be hosted. We are looking for more loyal fanbases, like the Super Smash Bros community, who would enjoy consistent tournaments for their games. As long as there is a player base, we will host it!
What challenges and opportunities have you encountered while hosting competitive esports in Fort Wayne?
LF: The hardest challenges I have faced are logistics for running our large events. Trying to organize a 100-player tournament is an entire job in itself. Finding a venue and securing it for the day you want, scheduling a day people can make it out, finding supplies like tables, chairs, and stream equipment, finding staff, and tons of other factors go into planning these large events.
Our community has been great at supporting these events and not causing problems. Some common problems at other esports tournaments, like body odor or safety, have not been an issue for our tournaments. We are giving our players an extra level of quality and respect in our tournaments, and our player base upholds this. It is great to see and allows us to continue what we are doing.
What can newcomers expect when they join the group for the first time? Are there any special requirements or procedures?
LF: If you have never played in a tournament before, our entire community is welcoming and ready to get you on the right track. We host free-play nights every Wednesday from 3-9 PM at the venue, which are geared toward casual practice and helping players get better. If you are nervous about attending a tournament, I think coming to one of these is a great way to feel better and learn a lot!
We also host our weeklies on different days, Smash Ultimate being Sunday! You can pre-register online. The links can be found in our Discord and on our website. Other than that, if you’re attending a tournament for the first time, bring your own controller and money to pay the venue fee. Your opponents will be able to help you navigate the tournament rules comfortably.
What plans does the Odyssey Esports have for the future?
LF: Our current goal is to host a great tournament on July 8! It's less than a week away, and I'm super pumped. I know a lot of other players in the scene are, too. We haven't had a tournament this big in the state of Indiana since 2019. We've got top players from all surrounding states, including a top 20 worldwide ranked player from St. Louis.
Outside of that, this summer we want to get more staff trained to run all weekly events. I will be going to school in the fall, so we will need more people to run our tournaments. We've already got a great team of staff who are offering up their help and ready to keep the scene alive and growing! Past that, we want to host a large tournament sometime in the fall. We also want to host a major-sized tournament down the line, at the end of 2024.
At the end of the day, though, the goal is to grow the esports community and share our love for games together. Esports has given me so much in the last four years, whether it be lifelong friends, travel experiences, or simply unforgettable moments. I want to make esports more accessible to everyone and provide a home for it in Fort Wayne where anyone can feel comfortable and happy.
If you are interested in event sponsorships or have other inquiries, you can reach Frank at email@example.com.