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(Photo credit: Kathryn Ivanov)

The esports scene at the University of Hawaiʻi took a major leap forward as students from seven UH campuses engaged in friendly competition at the 2024 Kawaii Kon.

people playing games in front of a television
(Photo credit: Kathryn Ivanov)

Held at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center, March 29–31, students from UH Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu, UH Hilo, Leeward Community College, Kapiʻolani CC, Windward CC and Kauaʻi CC participated in a Super Smash Bros. tournament.

“The overall purpose of the Smash tournament is to not only offer students a highly competitive venue for esports, but to also have them experience the larger (and extremely popular) digital games, anime, and cosplay events locally,” said Nyle Sky Kauweloa, UH Mānoa esports program director. “This is not just a tournament, but an entire cultural experience for the students.”

“This was my second time attending the UH collegiate tournament, and it was just as awesome to see all the campuses come together in spirited and friendly competition,” said UH Hilo student Logan Nobriga. “I really appreciated how supportive players were, not just of their own teams, but of the other teams as well. Hilo came and gave it our all, and I’m really grateful our new players had the chance to experience some competition and got to show their skill to the other campuses.”

With more than 20,000 attendees over the three-day event, the success of the UH esports programs were on full display for the Kawaii Kon fans.

Kapiʻolani‘s debut at the Kawaii Kon tournament was a significant step for our club, having been established just two months prior,” said Adam Moura, Kapiʻolani CC instructor and esports advisor. “It was a great opportunity for growth and learning, and we came away from it inspired to continue developing our skill for future competitions.”

Keala Chock, Leeward CC vice chancellor for academic affairs, added, “For Leeward Community College’s students to be part of systemwide esports events is not just about competition; it’s about fostering a sense of community, collaboration, and innovation among our students, shaping them into well-rounded individuals prepared for the challenges of the future.”

Continuing collaboration

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Group photo of the participants (Photo credit: Alec Tuason)

While the tournament at Kawaii Kon is the one event each year where UH brings together students from several campuses together to compete, organizers hope to increase the collaboration throughout the year. The esports programs would like to acknowledge Southwest Airlines for flying in students from Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi, Bank of Hawaii for 3D-printing trophies, Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union for providing scholarships and the Academy for Creative Media System (ACM System) for funding the program.

“Just as ACM System started at UH Mānoa and now supports programs on all 10 UH campuses, my discussions about funding esports with President Lassner six years ago always had the goal of rolling this out to every UH campus that wants to participate,” said Chris Lee, founder and director of ACM System. “I am very grateful to President Lassner who brought on Sky Kauweloa and his team to grow UH Esports to the global powerhouse it is today and even more proud to see so many of our campuses and students engaging through esports.”

More stories on UH’s esports program.

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Team Mānoa Mauka won first place in the tournament. (Photo credit: Kathryn Ivanov)
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