Call of Duty has been life for Ashley “MiDNiTE” Glassel for over 10 years.
She began her career with OpTic Gaming as a content creator but is now actively working behind the scenes with Minnesota’s Call of Duty League team, RØKKR, as the director of content.
The Minnesota RØKKR will host the Launch Weekend event for the CDL from Jan. 24 to 26 at the Minneapolis Armory, where all 12 teams will compete throughout the weekend.
Dot Esports talked with MiDNiTE about her dream role and a few surprises that are planned for the Launch Weekend.
You were the first person to sign with Minnesota and was later titled the director of content. Were you always interested in working with esports content? What did Minnesota have that other organizations lacked?
MiDNiTE: When I got brought on to Minnesota Call of Duty at the time, we weren’t calling it Minnesota RØKKR obviously until we unveiled the branding. But when I was brought on, I was literally hire one. There was me and our COO Brett Diamond, and obviously our ownership group. They just needed help in a wide variety of areas because they’re brand new to Call of Duty and brand new to esports. I was kind of there saying, “Hey, I’m local, I’m pretty experienced, I know a lot of the pro players in the Call of Duty scene.” So I was basically like the jack of all trades at the beginning. I was called a consultant, but I was basically the interim GM, the interim social media manager, the interim content manager.
So you had your hands in everything?
Yeah. It was everything and that’s just the nature of a startup. I mean, I feel like almost every hire that we’ve had since has had a little bit of that same experience where they’re like, “OK, here’s my specialty, here’s what I know needs to be done and that I can help with. But also, we need to do these other things because we’re still just really getting the ball rolling, and we’re starting hot because we’re hosting the first event.” So, it’s just been a big wild ride so far.
I know you grew up in Minnesota and with the Vikings. Was it a goal of yours to work with the Vikings or was it just an example of the stars perfectly aligning for you?
Technically, I’m not a Vikings employee because the Wilfs own the Vikings and then they own WISE Esports Ventures, which is the holding company for RØKKR. But you know, to answer your question, yeah, I’ve been watching the Minnesota Vikings since 1998. I was, I don’t know, nine years old watching football with my dad, asking him questions like, “What does first down mean? Why did he fumble? What does that mean? Oh, what’s two-point conversion?” Like every Sunday, my dad and I watched the game together, or if we weren’t together, we’re watching it and we’re texting each other about it. I remember driving by the facility and thinking, “Wow, man, it’d be so awesome to work there. I wonder how that could work though? What do I need to go to school for?” Eventually, the thought bounced away.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes.
Yeah. I’d moved back home from Texas to Minnesota, I was down there for a couple of years with OpTic. I was preparing to leave OpTic in my head when one day when I was streaming, I was told by my chat to “check Twitter right now” because the Minnesota Vikings announced they would be getting into Call of Duty. I was like, “No way” and I looked. I see the Wilfs, Gary Vaynerchuk, who I’ve had a minimal brush up with him on social media in the past so he knew I existed. Hearing that they were entering Call of Duty, even if it was like another esport like Overwatch or Counter-Strike, I would be pretty stoked. The fact that its Call of Duty, which is like my main game, my passion, I was like, “No way. I have to… at the very least, talk with these people.”
RØKKR was one of the first teams to announce their roster for the Call of Duty League. Did you have any input on selecting players or staff for the team?
They came in completely fresh to Call of Duty and esports. I walk in there first day and I say, “So you know Scump?” And they’d say, “Oh yeah. He has the most followers.” But like they don’t know the whole ten-year history with that guy. They don’t know who’s really considered a top-tier player, what the intricate history between the teams and the players are, and so they needed a lot of help right away. And so I came in basically interim GM style. I had other avenues I could have gone down after leaving OpTic, but this one just was perfect for me. So short answer, yes, I did pick some of the roster. I basically walked in day one, I think it was like a week or so before we could start talking to restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents.
There was a bunch of dating around as there should be during that time for everybody. But we kept coming back and thinking like, “We really want players that are going to represent us the way that we want to be represented.” And so SiLLY and Assault, and there’s actually footage of this, because like I said, the foresight and the fly on the wall type recordings we were doing. But there’s footage of me telling them about SiLLY and Assault for the first time because I broke down like this is a duo that won a world championship just a year ago on a boots-on-the-ground game, which is what’s about to come out with Modern Warfare.
These guys have great chemistry. They’re solid dudes by all accounts. This could be a really good core to build around. And then I’d start talk to GodRx. I still think he’s so underrated. He is, I think, one of the best players in the league. He had like insane Search and Destroy stats last year. So, you know, pairing or getting him as a trio with SiLLY and Assault, that seemed like almost a no-brainer at that point based on all the discussion we’d had.
RØKKR has been one of the most consistent Call of Duty League franchises to focus on content. So far, the team has a podcast, player breakdown videos, and other YouTube content. Did Gary Vaynerchuk offer advice on content strategy or the did team already have a plan in place?
It’s a little bit of both. One of the first conversations that I had with Brett Diamond, we were just kind of talking about things like, “What are your goals?” My fear with it was that because I’ve watched big money come into esports and then they totally misguide and misdirect things. I was thinking, “I really hope that these guys know what they’re walking into and are able to listen.” Right away, immediately, Brett on the phone explained, “Hey, we know we have had traditional sports success. The Wilfs have had success in a lot of other investment properties, but we’re not going to come in here and act like we know everything. We’re down to learn. We’re ready to learn.”
As far as content goes, they had already had the presence of mind to record some of these first calls. The fact that they were just like setting up an iPhone in the corner to capture a quick part of a meeting with ownership, whether that’s to decide the name or decide like, “OK, how’s this going to work?” I think maybe even some of the first calls we had with players, we were making sure we were recording that stuff because we eventually might want to use it. You never know.
The content was always kind of them having the foresight to do that and the desire to do that was really appealing to me. And then yes, like we’ve had meetings with Gary. He came just about a month ago in-person to Minnesota, had some great meetings with him then. There’s definitely a Gary V. religion if you follow him. He posts a lot. There’s a lot to be shared and said.
What we try to do is communicate with the community. I think one of the things that we were really proud of when this whole thing started was during the offseason when this whole franchise thing is so new for Call of Duty. We would try to upload little videos of just kind of like explaining like, “Hey, this is what’s happening. We want to share with you as we go, but this is the deal. This is how it’s working right now.”
RØKKR will host the Launch Weekend of the Call of Duty League from Jan. 24 to 26. Can you talk about any plans the team has? What can attendees look forward to?
We’re really excited to host the launch of the league. It’s basically a celebration. All the teams are going to be in town, we’re opening it up here at the Armory in Minneapolis, and we couldn’t be more excited. I’m not going to share our specific plans. We were specifically discussing some great venue things that are going to go down, but we’re just really excited to host all of the 12 teams. The matchups for that weekend are insane. There’s points that are going to be earned from those matches that have implications for the first tournament of the year. It’s an opening celebration of the league. You’re going to be able to come here, whether it’s alone or with a bunch of your friends. You know, really cheer for the team that you want to cheer for. Check out what Minnesota’s all about and we’re going to have a couple of special things coming up. Just know there’s a lot of people working around the clock to make sure that this event is awesome and we’re really excited about it.
Fans can purchase tickets for as low as $25 through RØKKR’s website.
You have been deeply involved in the Call of Duty community for over 10 years. What is it about CoD that keeps your interest piqued?
Yeah, just always loved CoD. I don’t know what it is, CoD 4, Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops 2, those are like my top three. They’ve made so many great memories for me, whether it’s playing with my buddies, some of them that to this point, I’m still good friends with these people that I met online. I’ve met them in person at this point. It’s really such a community-driven thing for me, and then when the competitive side of it really started to boom, especially in Black Ops 2, that was when I started to notice there are different little splits in the scene. There’s like the try-hard guys, there’s the Search and Destroy guys, there’s the snipers, there’s the competitive dudes. Everybody kind of has their thing and it’s really cool to see the community kind of just revolve around this game that we all love.
As far as the competitive community goes, I just love, you know, how tapped into it everybody is. That passion that they have for it, whether it’s for their team or a certain player, or just like what’s going to happen at the tournaments, I think that’s like the great thing about Call of Duty esports.
Do you have a favorite achievement from 2019?
Being selected and brought on to this Minnesota Call of Duty franchise, seeing the launch of a brand, and working in this small startup that’s now like we have like 13 full-time employees—it’s growing so fast. We’re moving into our facility and getting into the ground level of RØKKR and working hard alongside other people who are working just as hard. It’s been a really gratifying experience and I know it has a bunch of great stuff for me in the future. I’m just really proud to be a part of the team here. And it just feels like everybody is just genuinely stoked and working their ass off and passionate, which is pretty rare when you think about it. So I feel like now it feels like really hectic and cool, but in the future, I’m sure I’ll look back on this time and say, “Wow, that was really awesome what we did. It’s a really unique experience.”
Interview has been edited for clarity and length.