“My brother and I used to argue over who got to play Pokemon on the Gameboy so often that our parents ended up buying us a second one,” said Matthew Burnstedt. “Ever since then, I’ve been playing games.”
After several weeks of searching for a new esports head coach, AU has hired Burnstedt to fill the position.
“I’m originally from a small town of about 200 people in Iowa called Libertyville,” said Burnstedt.
Burnstedt said that he has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. His first consoles were the original Nintendo and the original Gameboy.
“My favorite game is ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake,’” said Burnstedt. “I am a huge fan of the ‘Final Fantasy’ franchise.”
Burnstedt explained that ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ is not a competitive game, but his favorite competitive video game is ‘League of Legends,’ which is one of the games in the AU esports lineup.
Burnstedt said that he has never been on an esports team himself due to its lack of popularity during his undergraduate years at University of Iowa. He earned his masters degree at Iowa Wesleyan University, but Burnstedt explained that they didn’t have an esports team during his time there either.
“My master’s program was geared towards esports specifically, and my schooling was meant to work as a means to entering the esports world,” said Burnstedt. “I had to convince some of my professors that esports was the real deal and that there was in fact a lot of overlay between traditional sports and esports from an administrative angle.”
Burnstedt’s hard work in his master’s program has paid off after being hired for a job that he hoped to be working one day.
“I went to school specifically to end up in a position like this,” said Burnstedt, “and I’m thrilled to have ‘made it.’”
As Burnstedt starts his position as the new head coach, he notes that he has not had experience with every game in the AU esports lineup, but is going to start learning the ropes of each game.
“I do happen to have a few colleagues and connections that are heavily involved in the competitive scenes of some of our other games,” said Burnstedt. “I’m hoping to call in a favor or two so I can receive ‘crash courses’ for some of the other games, thus allowing the students to view me as a proper coach instead of a simple figurehead.”
Burnsted said that there is plenty of work to do before the esports program can function as a “well-oiled machine,” but expressed that he cannot wait to “hammer things out.”
Dr. Justin Lambright, who served as the interim esports coordinator after Duncan Vosburg resigned from the position, said that he has been very impressed how Burnstedt has handled the transition of taking over the position.
“Over the past semester as I have worked to keep this program going, I have discovered how involved his job is,” said Lambirght. “There is a significant administrative load, as he is really coaching several different teams simultaneously. On top of that, the program sits within [AU] Athletics, but has had a lot of input and oversight from a wide range of people on campus, which makes it imperative that he work with a wide range of people and competing interests.”
Since Burnstedt started the position on Nov. 30, Lambright has continued to be involved in the logistics of the program and has helped Burnstedt complete this transition.
“The transition to him being in charge has been extremely smooth and I am encouraged about the future of esports under his leadership,” said Lambright.
After the sudden mid-semester resignation of the previous coach, AU began the search for a new head coach. Marcie Taylor headed this search in hopes of finding the best candidate for the position.
“I learned of Coach Burnstedt’s interest when he submitted an application in response to AU’s position posting on the National Association of Collegiate Esports website,” said Taylor.
Taylor explained that not only did Burnstedt exhibit a passion for coaching esports, but also an appreciation for the process of recruiting new players to the program.
“Recruitment is vital to the growth, sustainability and competitiveness of the program,” said Taylor.
Taylor explained that those interested in watching the esports teams compete can follow their Twitch channel at https://www.twitch.tv/andersonuesports.