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Meet Cincinnati Fear's first professional esports athlete

Stephen Schmidt, Cincinnati Fear.jpeg
Cincinnati Fear
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Oak Hills and UC grad Stephen Schmidt is ranked No. 1 in Ohio for Super Smash Brothers and is the first pro to sign with Cincinnati Fear, one of four Cincinnati professional teams competing in esports.

Stephen Schmidt’s parents don’t worry anymore their son is spending too much time gaming.

“The last year of high school, when I came home from a tournament with $600 that I just won, and they’re like, ‘OK, if you keep doing this you can keep going, as long as your grades stay good and you keep bringing home money,' " remembers Schmidt. "They didn’t have an issue with it.”

He’s bringing home a lot more than that these days. The Oak Hills and UC graduate has winnings totaling more than $10,000.

Schmidt’s specialty is Super Smash Brothers, a crossover fighting game series featuring characters from various Nintendo franchises. At the May 28 Lift-Off Smash Regional in Nashville, he took second.

This spring Cincinnati Fear, the city’s fourth professional esports team, signed Schmidt as its first pro.

Jackie Reau is president of the club and was excited to start it after noticing how enthusiastic her students were. “I’m an adjunct professor at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University and every time I bring esports with a business lens into the classroom the students overachieve.”

Cincinnati Fear not only includes professional players but collegiate and high school athletes as well. Look for the club to establish a greater media presence in the coming weeks with podcasts and an esports lifestyle TV show. Reau says the team is also hiring.

Schmidt looks forward to expanding his own media presence with a YouTube Channel or podcasts. He doesn’t know how long he’ll stick with Super Smash Brothers — it’s a hobby now. Schmidt’s degree is in finance, and he hopes to eventually become a financial adviser.

But for right now, the only money he is counting is his own.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.