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Dal embraces eSports

Electronic sports would have been considered an oxymoron two decades ago. In the last few years, though, the eSports phenomenon has not only gained legitimacy but has begun to rival the popularity of traditional sports as well.

With this popularity comes a new trend erupting amongst spectators as well: BarCraft – watching StarCraft in sports bars.

Students at Dalhousie have embraced playing video games competitively, or eSports. Members of the Dal eSports Society (DeSS) gather every Saturday in the Goldberg Computer Science Building to play StarCraft, and organize BarCraft events. StarCraft is a real-time strategy game in which players build armies of humans and aliens, and then fight them against each other. The DeSS participates in the Collegiate Star League, a competitive StarCraft II league for schools all over North America. At the end of the previous academic year, the team was ranked fourth out of 234 college and university clubs.

The DeSS will be holding events during frosh week, and throughout the Fall semester, including Frag for Cancer and the IWK Gaming Fundraiser.

StarCraft II, released in August 2010, has made a name for itself as both a competitive sport and a game for fun. It is quickly becoming one of the most watched spectator sports in the world, with people around the globe tuning in over the internet to watch professional gamers play against each other.

Many video games are played competitively, including the popular Halo and Call of Duty franchises, but StarCraft is particularly popular amongst eSports fans for a number of reasons. Like most competitive games, it is incredibly fast paced, requiring impressive dexterity. But to win StarCraft, the player must think both tactically and strategically – while simultaneously managing the materials needed to manufacture their armies.

“The game is unlike any other video game in the world,” said Charlemagne Tremblay, a StarCraft enthusiast. He traveled an hour from Chester to attend the most recent BarCraft event in Halifax.

“I’ve been a gamer all my life, but nothing’s struck me like StarCraft has.”

In March of last year, the DeSS held their biggest BarCraft event yet at the Lion’s Head Tavern in Halifax. Major League Gaming, one of the largest eSports organizations in North America, broadcasted a tournament live from Columbus, OH. Over 100 people signed up for the event on Facebook. At the bar, two rooms were filled with self-proclaimed nerds watching the tournament live-streamed over the Internet.

“I’ve gotta say, I did not expect this many people to show up,” said Adam Morehouse, a popular StarCraft personality from Dartmouth and one of the event’s organizers.

“This goes to show that eSports is real!”

Steven Sarty, a Lunenburg resident who drove to Halifax to attend, was just as excited. “This was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever been to,” he said.

“It’s amazing that these kind of events aren’t limited to sports fans now. Nerds are starting to take over.”

Despite the negative stereotypes that surround video game enthusiasts, the crowd at the event did not look all that out of the ordinary.

“There are tons of girls who love StarCraft,” explained Amanda Arab, one of many women who attended March’s BarCraft.

The popularity of eSports has garnered the attention of people all over the world. Large companies, including Intel, Bell, Sony and Dr. Pepper, have been sponsoring the industry over the past few years, which is one of the ways the industry stays afloat financially.

ESports is also receiving attention in the media. CTV News covered March’s BarCraft event. Forbes magazine has also been reporting on the eSports phenomenon, examining the financial aspects as well as its popularity.

As the final game of the tournament drew to a close, the crowd at the Lion’s Head exploded into cheers. Everyone in the room threw their hands into the air and cheered for the winner of the tournament, a South Korean playing under the name MarineKingPrime. Afterward, the bar’s patrons stuck around to draw for prizes and take pictures with each other.

“It’s a community that’s fueled almost exclusively by a bunch of people who are incredibly passionate about their game,” Sarty said.

“And that’s a big reason why this is not only an amazing community to be a part of, but it’s why I think this whole StarCraft thing is going to last.”

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