Just a few days ago, the concept of an eSports event was foreign to me.
However, having just returned home from a weekend in Melbourne to attend the third and final ACL Pro event for the year, I am proud to say I am officially a fan.
A keen gamer myself, the idea of filling a room full of professional gamers from around the Nation and watching as they battle for the winner’s title, was obviously something that intrigued me … but the reality of watching this event play out live, far exceeded my expectations.
Held at Bundoora’s La Trobe University, the event featured more than 150 professional gamers, who competed across four titles: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Star Craft 2 and Halo.
Played over three main stages – each with a dedicated, live Twitch feed – the room was abuzz with competitive banter, desperate pleas for action from team captains and even a harmonica (one teams strange way of celebrating).
You only had to look past the wall of endless monitors to the tapestry of cables that snaked between them to understand just how much work goes into pulling together an event of this stature.
Head of ACL Nick Vanzetti said the event’s logistics had to be planned months in advance, but the outcome was always worth the effort.
“2015 has been a really big year – not just for ACL but eSports in general,” he said.
“There’s been a lot more (enthusiasm in the) crowd … across all of our events which is really exciting to see.
“… eSports is really just starting to grow and flourish.”
The weekend’s event was a testament to this growth, with high spectator numbers and the presence of notable industry sponsors.
Competitors travelled from across Australia and New Zealand to attend, many meeting their teammates face-to-face for the first time.
“There may be the instance where on a team you’ve got (players) from Brisbane, Melbourne (and) Sydney and these events are the only opportunity they get to catch up,” Nick said.
“They all get along and play online and they can then go and hang out in real life at these events.”
And hang out they did, with players spending hours on end, battling alongside their teammates and opponents.
With the 2015 ACL circuit now completed, I asked Nick what Australian fans could expect to see in the coming months … and it seems the next big event is just around the corner.
October will see Crown Resorts host a Counter Strike: Global Offensive event which boasts a cash prize of $55,555 – one of Australia’s biggest eSports prize pools.
“We’re really excited about (the event) because we’ve managed to secure two world-famous teams … Cloud9, the number one North American team for Counter Strike and Virtus Pro, who are arguably the number two in Europe,” Nick said.
“Other projects I can’t announce just yet, but there will be some really cool stuff happening this year and then into 2016 as well.”
After being swept up in the atmosphere and spectacle of the weekend’s event I couldn’t resist asking for some advice on how someone looking to take their gaming to a professional level would get started.
Nick said connecting with other gamers on public servers, asking questions and even searching for competitive gaming circles online was a promising way to get started.
“A little bit of digging and making sure that you are really looking to try and get involved (and) you will find the right channel, the right source,” he said.
After spending two days with the best of the best in the Australian/New Zealand gaming world, I am under no illusion that professional gaming is within my reach.
However, for those who do have the time and dedication to take their skills to the next level you can take it from me that the ACL Pro is the arena you want to compete in.
So get Googling, networking and pestering those pro gamers – and hopefully I will see you at the next event … but please, leave the harmonica at home.
Results for Halo, Call of Duty and Counter Strike can be found here – http://aclmelb2015.challonge.com/
Result for Star Craft II can be found here – http://battlefy.com/aclpro/acl-melbourne/55e9b9d76985574a002f2619/stage/55ea0fb2e7eb92480073b7db/bracket
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