One player group in Richmond is working to bring more attention to its esports meetups and to bring more players together.
Even though Richmond’s cyber cafes have closed, that doesn’t mean local gaming groups don’t exist. It’s easy to associate local gaming with comic shops hosting Dungeons & Dragons one-offs; video games don’t require you to drive anywhere to play together with friends. One player group in Richmond is working to bring more attention to its esports meetups and to bring more players together.
Gaming and competition have gone hand in hand since the beginning. Arcade cabinets tested a player’s skill at how long they could make a quarter last. Some games kept a score for each attempt, and if your score was high enough, a player could place their initials into a records list.
As networked gameplay and multiplayer titles blew up in popularity during the late 90s, high scores gave way to win-loss records. The more wins a player claims, the more respect a player gains from the fans of that game. It wasn’t long before game companies and independent groups started to take notice. These organizations began to hold contests to give away cash prizes to its winners for various titles. Being a professional gamer, however, was more of a pipe dream than reality.
IRC chat rooms became the wire for fans to share round-by-round scores and to connect with other fans. Communities grew out of their passion for bringing professional-level play to the games that they enjoyed the most. These cash-strapped, low-budget movements–primarily run by volunteers–became the foundation for esports.
There were several attempts by organizations with money to burn to gain a mainstream audience for esports via broadcast television. In the US, this didn’t translate into mainstream success. However, it turned out to be a smash hit in South Korea.
There, a strategy game called StarCraft is credited as one of the first video games broadcast on television and became a cultural phenomena. Skilled players would compete in leagues sponsored by major corporations with real cash prizes. Some of them would even go on to make enough money to have a sustainable career as a professional gamer. They wouldn’t be the first career gamers, but they became rock stars in the scene.
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Fast forward to today: modern streaming technology is now refined to the point that it’s useable by anyone. Just as YouTube became the online video time-waster of choice, Twitch is now the premiere video gaming streaming service. Esports events streamed over Twitch have routinely outperformed broadcast sports television viewership figures. In a similar manner, StarCraft is no longer the most popular game to watch. The most followed game today is called League of Legends.
If you’re unfamiliar with League of Legends, it’s a five-a-side action game where the emphasis is on strategy and teamwork. Teams battle to take strategic control of the map with the goal of destroying the opposing team’s base. The complexity surrounding the strategy of the game revolves around its vast roster of 121 champions or player characters. The team of mechanically outstanding players is only one part of the formula–a real winning team knows how to combine certain champions to achieve synergy on the virtual battlefield.
An elite competition called the League of Legends World Championship tournament is entering its semi-final stage this weekend. The four best professional teams in the world will compete in best-of-five matches to determine who will play in the grand finale. However, this year the tournament is in Seoul, South Korea, and viewing times are not convenient for most of us here in Richmond–or any other part of North America. The start time for both of these match-ups is 4:15 AM, which is, as you can imagine, rather difficult to watch live unless you dramatically change your sleeping schedule.
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A local League of Legends player group looking to grow its membership has come up with a more elegant solution to this scheduling problem: holding an afternoon viewing party (this Sunday, October 12th at 1:00 PM) to watch recorded matches. They’ve held this type of event before, but founder Franklin Dillich wanted something a bit more “extravagant” this time around.
“For the [World Championship] Finals last year, we had maybe 25-30 come out. It was at Gus’ Bar & Grill on Broad,” said the LOLRVA founder. “We’ve done some buffet meetups in the past and had around 15 people each time, but those weren’t [announced] really far in advance, and so it’s not as though anyone marked in on their calendar.”
“Gus’ is more restaurant-ish. The front-of-house is sort of horseshoe-shaped. They only have TVs for us and won’t let us mess with the projector they have.”
Enter Curtis Reisinger, a member of LOLRVA who is organizing this weekend’s event at The Broadberry, thanks to his connections with the venue’s management.
“I would like to pull in around 120 into The Broadberry for this and see if we can repeat the event in the future,” said Reisinger. “During the 2013 Soccer World Cup, [The Broadberry] hosted a viewing party that had some 250 people crammed in there. I would be very tickled to come close to matching that at some point.”
The event at The Broadberry starts at 1:00 PM on Sunday October 12th. There’s a cover charge of $5. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP via Facebook.
Do you play League of Legends and want to play with other Richmonders and other people from around the region–no matter how skilled you are at the game–you’re encouraged to visit the LOLRVA Facebook page and register at the groups website LOLRVA.com.