When Patrick Brigman entered the Super Smash Bros. tournament, he knew the competition would be tough. But for him, the match was about more than the prize money — it was about supporting the cause.
EnCircle Technologies held a charity video game tournament on Saturday at the Missouri United Methodist Church to raise money for the nonprofit organization. Players from around the Midwest gathered to compete in competitive and casual matches, with a prize pool of $3,000 for the winners.
In its third year, the annual tournament has attracted locals and gamers from outside Columbia, said Teri Walden, executive director of EnCircle Technologies. This year’s turnout was the biggest in its history, with more than 130 players.
“We started probably with about 80 gamers,” Walden said, “and then went to about 107, and then this year is the biggest yet.”
She said her company provides technology training for young adults with autism and other educational and work barriers .
“The unemployment rate is too high, so we wanted to train them in skills that can get them jobs,” Walden said.
The players contribute to the organization through their entry fees. While some are focused on the game, others, like Brigman, say they are excited to support the charity.
He used to play Super Smash Bros. Melee as a kid, rediscovered it recently and fell back in love. Now he plays with MU’s Smash Bros. club. He said it’s more than just a game; it’s a community. At the end of the day, he said, it’s a way for friends to hang out.
Brigman said he fully supports the cause, explaining that he and his teammate are passionate about what EnCircle does for its clients.
“Everything EnCircle stands for is phenomenal,” Brigman said. For him,doing something he enjoys while also giving to the charity is an added bonus.
The games offer players multiple characters to choose from, all with different powers. Each player is allotted four lives, or “stock,” and must fight the other players to knock them out of the map repeatedly until they lose all their stock. The winner is determined when one side has lost all of its stock or has the most stock remaining after time is up.
In the EnCircle tournament, players could choose to form a team for two-on-two battles or enter the single-player competition. Players who win their matchups advance in the winner’s bracket, while the defeated party enters the loser’s bracket. The winning player or team receives the $3,000 prize, and the rest of the money from sponsors and entry fees goes to the nonprofit.
Mark Gandy is the founder of G3CFO, a consulting company based in Columbia. He said he has known Walden for years and has been an individual sponsor for her organization for at least two years.
Gandy said he donates because he values the training Walden offers for young men and women with autism.
“The reason I’m giving … is I feel like I’m helping someone that’s helping other people,” Gandy said.
Lisa Imhoff’s son Garrett is an EnCircle Technologies success story. Before he trained with the company, Imhoff said she knew her son was smart, but he had a lot of anxiety. He also has selective mutism, which makes it somewhat difficult for him to work with others.
Garrett began training through EnCircle at age 19. Now 21, he has two jobs in the digital field, working in online advertising and website development. Imhoff said her son is now more self-confident, and she is proud of his success.
“I knew he was smart; I knew he had the capability,” Imhoff said. “If it wasn’t for EnCircle, I don’t think he’d have any jobs.”
Supervising editor is Taylor Blatchford.