ECE freshman wins gaming gold

ECE News

Laurel Bollinger, ECE Illinois

Story Highlights

  • Freshman Ryan Mancl's used his gaming expertise in a game called Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties.
  • Mancl competed in the finals against the 2007 WCG champion for this game.
  • Mancl won the championship and the top prize of $10,000.

“The time I was most nervous was when I won my first game because I kind of realized that I had a very good chance to take myself to the top two. So that was when it hit me and I got really nervous.”

This isn’t a football or basketball player talking. These are the words of ECE freshman Ryan Mancl, who spent November 6-9 in Cologne, Germany, competing on the USA team in the World Cyber Games (WCG). Mancl has been involved in gaming for the past three years, the last two at a competitive level.

ECE freshman Ryan Mancl (on center dais) won a gold medal at the 2008 World Cyber Games held in Cologne, Germany.
ECE freshman Ryan Mancl (on center dais) won a gold medal at the 2008 World Cyber Games held in Cologne, Germany.

His expertise is in a game called Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, a game of tactics and quick thinking. In a competition setting, it is all about becoming stronger than another empire. “In Age of Empires you both start out with the same set up on two different sides of a map and you basically build up your economy until you get enough resources so that you can have an army at the same time,” he said.  “And then it’s just kind of balancing little attacks on their economy while having big fights between the armies. It’s a lot of back and forth. There’s a lot of strategy to it too, and a lot of decision making.”

His expertise showed as Mancl found himself in the finals competing up against the 2007 WCG champion for this game. They battled for the championship and the top prize of $10,000. When it was over, Mancl had won.

“My strategy was mainly to adapt to my opponents because most of them tend to do the same thing,” said Mancl. “They have a set style that I kind of knew about. So I played more to adapt to them instead of playing to my own style.”

Mancl not only adapted, he spent many hours practicing and going through the game using different strategies. “Basically for this tournament I played with one person who I knew very well, and we tested out all the different strategies to figure out which would be the best. Once we had that we practiced it against each other over and over again to get the more specific tactics down,” said Mancl.

Much like practicing for any other type of competition, Mancl put many hours into prepping for the Cyber Games. He would play at least 1 or 2 hours a day during school, and then 6 to 8 hours a day the week before the finals.

So important was this competition to Mancl that he chose to take a chemistry exam early and now that he is back there is no rest for the winner. He came home to two midterms and a research paper. “It’s not the most relaxing week to come back to, but it was worth it in the end” said Mancl.

Besides the competition, Mancl had the opportunity to sightsee and also meet friends through these online games. “The most exciting part was meeting all the people that I’ve played games with over the past two years,” he said. “That was really the biggest part of the trip for me.”

Now that he is back at the U of I he has time to focus on his studies and also his future. Mancl said he would like to have a future in competitive gaming, but that market is an uncertain one. “A future like that depends on what game you’re playing, and the biggest thing is finding a sponsor because just like anything, like in professional sports, you’re getting paid by the team,” he said. “So it's really about finding the right team that can provide both a salary and a good playing environment."

If that doesn’t work out Mancl said he is interested in following in his father’s footsteps and becoming an engineer for IBM. But he is not shutting out the idea of going to grad school to continue his education. He is early in his ECE career, and he said it just depends on what is available when graduation approaches.

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