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A family man at heart, Mike “hastr0” Rufail along with his wife and daughter, race around the corner on their way to watch the Dallas Fuel’s first match of the season against the Los Angeles Valiant. As he and his family move quickly down the hall, Rufail waves to staff and fans alike.
The CEO and owner of Envy Gaming, whose teams include the previously mentioned Dallas Fuel, the Dallas Empire (Call of Duty League), and Team Envy (multiple esports), knows that putting on the right show and engaging the community is paramount to success. Smiling, waving, and taking time for a simple hello as he passes by is genuine, he says. He wants people to love esports as much as he does and he has a plan.
“It’s really about getting more involved locally and outside of our home state events,” Rufail told The Esports Observer. ”We’re looking to program a lot more participatory gaming in other locations around the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth). We’re assessing how we can foster amateur competition around the metroplex. It’s a huge priority for us to foster esports at the amateur level for both kids and adults.”
Rufail wants to see if he can help make esports a popular pastime such as baseball, football, or basketball. Creating a place where esports can thrive is one of the key factors in why he got involved in the Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues.
“If we can be successful in doing that [fostering amateur competition], it’s going to shift esports into a pastime for people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Rufail said. “We want to give people a place to go compete and enjoy the competition themselves.”
Creating a community is no easy task and takes time to do it right. However, having a professional esports organization in your geographic area certainly helps. This opening Dallas Fuel homestand weekend at the Esports Stadium Arlington was really important in setting the entertainment and fan experience tone for the future, says Rufail. It’s here that the lessons he has learned by being the elder statesman as an owner in Call of Duty competition and having the Overwatch League experience under his belt has helped the most.
“I’ve been operating a Call of Duty (CDL) team since 2007. I am the most experienced owner, I’m pretty sure, in the CDL when it comes to operating a team. But I’ve learned a lot about operating a team at a much higher standard in the Overwatch League and I want to use that knowledge to help professionalize our CDL team.”
What Rufail is referring to when he says he wants to professionalize his Call of Duty team is bringing in the same support system with better training, more coaches and support staff, as well as advanced logistics to help the team play better and be more competitive.
And while putting a winning product out there is important to Rufail, he really wants to create an experience that will win over fans. In 2019, the Dallas Fuel were the first organization to host an Overwatch League competitive event. Rufail says it was here he learned what it was like to host and that it was an intense learning experience.
“It’s about providing a quality experience. The first time around, the first homestand we operated, I think we did a fantastic job of creating quality experience,” he explained. “I think last year’s Dallas Fuel homestand helped us to prepare the programming for this event. This weekend was very similar, even though we were in a smaller venue this time.”
And when asked about looking forward, there was no doubt as to what Rufail wants to do.
“Creating and fostering that esports community gives a springboard to talent here locally to make a name for themselves and potentially make it to the professional level,” Rufail said. “We really want to be that springboard to foster the whole community here locally and we have a big priority to do that.”
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