Over the past weekend, I went with my fiancé and a few friends to witness an E-sports event in Toronto. The grand finale of the North American Star League tournament, highly touted to be the first ever professional Starcraft II tournament held in Canada. The event collaborated with two other tournaments to hold a 2-day long gaming extravaganza,. The Collegiate Star League, a showcased battle between Canadian universities vying for the top title of best university Starcraft II team, and, Blizzard' World Championships Series, a double-elimination style duel to determine which Canadian player will be given the honour of representing Canada against other world opponents. The "Olympics" of gaming if you will. I wasn't quite sure what to expect being only a minor SC II gamer whose experience with casted games comprised of listening to them in the background while they were being played on another computer. On Saturday morning, we arrived to a packed packed house with hundreds in the audience. Apparently, people had been camping out the entrance since the early hours. You can't tell in the below picture, but this was only half of the room. The other half was filled with standing observers, as the convention centre unfortunately did not provide sufficient seating to accommodate all ticket holders.
During the duration of the weekend, we had the privilege of viewing 8 professional SC II players duel to the proverbial death for a grand prize of $30,000. When $30,000 is on the line, you fight hard! Even though I was only familiar with a couple of them, they were all well known within SC II circles. So much so, there were a few star-struck moments from the boys! "OMG!!!! *insert swoon here*" You would have thought Bieber-fever was occurring.
The crowd here was absolutely amazing. I couldn't believe how excited and supportive the audience was. The cheers were deafening. I'd say there was more energy in this crowd than at most Raptor's games. :P Observing the audience while waiting for reactions to capture were at times hilarious. Viewers were on the edge of their seats and extremely animated. I caught this priceless moment of Mr. Greenshirt during a nail biting match between two Korean players - Puma and MC.
The introductions of the players reminded me of those given to boxers before their entrance. It was during one of these entrances that I had a close encounter with one of the players. I was standing on the red carpet attempting to get a good shot of crowd reactions when unknowingly I almost bump smack into MC, who had backtracked and was barreling down the aisle, reminiscent of a baby rhinoceros. To provide some visual context, below is a shot of him exiting after winning his series against Puma.
Gaming concentration was high during matches. Which is greatly required to make moves through a couple hundred APM. Here are a couple of shots of players engrossed in their matches.
All-in-all, I didn't have a terrible time accompanying the gang to our first-ever live E-sports tournament. I'd have to say I learned a lot about the E-sports dynamic and the similarities they share with other more common competitive sporting events. I'm not sure if I'd repeat this experience, but overall good gaming and excellent company. We even fit in some taco bell. ...Mmmm....taco bell...