Meet the young guns who stole the show at Call of Duty championship

Team Hecklebery, from left, Griffin von Roenn, Vince Magruder, team captain Jude von Roenn and Ezra Sowder.

@heckleberryteam via Twitter

The biggest stars in the competitive Call of Duty scene were in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend for the first big live Advanced Warfare championship, but it was a quartet of elementary school kids who stole the show.

Team Heckleberry, comprised of brothers Jude von Roenn (8 years old, second grade) and Griffin von Roenn (10, 4th) and their friends Ezra Sowder (9, 3rd) and Vince Magruder (10, 4th) stood out among the sea of young men battling it out in the open pool.

The Regency Ballroom at the downtown Hyatt was packed with gamers in the 16-24-year-old range, making a group of kids taking their place at a bank of consoles really stand out.

Seeing them from a viewing area above the fray, I had to go own and find out what they were doing there.

Page von Roenn, mother of brothers Jude and Griffin, explained that she made the trip from Louisville, Ky., as a treat to her younger son, an avid gamer and the team’s captain.

Once the other gamers began to notice them, their Twitter profile took off. Pro players started tweeting photos of them hanging with the young team, and before you knew it they had 5,000-plus followers. Today, it sits at just over 6,500.

Now that they are back in school and life is returning to normal, the kids and Page agreed to answer some questions from over the weekend.

1. First off, where did the name come from?

Jude: I was the team captain so I got to pick the name.  It was the first thing I thought of and I liked the way it sounded.  Sometimes things randomly come into my head.

2. What did you think of the response from the players in Columbus? Who was the coolest person you got to meet?

Jude: They were really nice and supportive.  I was very surprised they would be that nice and we would get that popular.  Everyone was awesome, but I really liked meeting Hitch and doing the interview.

Griffin: The players were all very nice.  I was surprised that we got so popular on Twitter.  The coolest person I got to meet was Sharp tK

Ezra: The players were really nice. The coolest person we got to meet was Banks from FaZe.

Vince: They were really supportive and it was really cool that we just wanted to play like them and were able to compete in the tournament. It was awesome being in a tournament with NaDeSHoT.

3. You guys are like Twitter stars now … who handles the Twitter account and will you keep it going?

Page: Over the weekend, the Twitter account was a distributed effort and we all responded and tweeted things.  When we got home, everything went under my control only, as I did not think it wise for the kids to have unmonitored access to an audience of that size!  I think we will keep it going once we decide on the future direction of Team Heckleberry.

4. What was the best part of the weekend?

Griffin von Roenn

Jude: Getting to play video games with really good players, going swimming, and meeting nice people.

Griffin: The best part was getting to play in the tournament and getting to spend the weekend with my friends.

Ezra: The best part of the weekend was playing the game and hanging out with my team.

Vince: Playing our hardest in the games, meeting a lot of cool people, swimming and practicing before the games.

5. How cool is your mom for letting you do this?

Vince Magruder

Jude:  She is the best and I love her!

Griffin: My mom is awesome and the best mom ever!

Page: As a parent, I actually feel that COD is a great game for my kids.  I believe that it teaches them team work, problem solving, communication, skill, and strategy (and sometimes anger management! J).  I also prefer that they play it under my supervision instead of at friends’ houses without adult involvement. 

My oldest son, Griffin, is a competitive athlete and my youngest son, Jude, loves technology and gaming.  I believe that both passions are equally as legitimate and should be similarly supported.  This was Jude’s weekend – we were all there for him.  Even though they didn’t win, he certainly came home feeling like a champion.

As a side note, I ran across this article from a non-gaming newsletter I subscribe to and found it interesting, and of course was happy to see some support for my pro-kids-gaming point of view!

6. What has the reaction been now that you are back in school?

Ezra Sowder

Jude: I’m bored.  No one in my class plays Call of Duty and they don’t really understand what happened over the weekend.

Griffin: Nobody in my class is allowed to talk about Call of Duty, and I didn’t want to talk about it because they would think I was bragging.  Life is back to normal, for now… !

Ezra: At School some non-CoD players don’t really care and the people that play CoD thought it was cool.

Vince: Not much hype here.

7. Do any of you have plans on going into competitive gaming down the road?

Jude: I want to!  It would be awesome and a lot of fun!  I hope to be on the main stage one day.

Griffin: I would like to and I hope we get to play in more tournaments!

Ezra: I don’t have plans but would like to.

Vince: Would love to continue to compete. It was such a great experience and cool to see how many people love the game … me included.