Competitive gaming has become a huge draw for gamers in the North American scene over recent years thanks to the success of massive events organized by companies like Major League Gaming, Riot Games, and Blizzard Entertainment. Unfortunately, these kinds of events garnered little success in Canada largely due to our more scattered population centers. This physical disconnect seems to have caused a much weaker mainstream impact in Canadian media, but I believe the competitive gamer following in Canada is just as strong as anywhere else, so here’s my story about how I first got interested in the realm of competitive gaming.
As a Canadian living in Northern Ontario, my interest in competitive gaming first started in high school when I regularly played a very popular competitive multiplayer FPS game called Halo 2. I would log 2-4 hours nearly every night with a couple of local friends and naturally, over time, most of us became very adept players. We would frequently gather as many local friends as we could find and set up LAN parties on weekends, partly to show off our superior abilities, but more-so because the experience of competitive gaming in a group atmosphere was something exciting and unique that we all enjoyed thoroughly. Sometimes we messed around and played games like Hide and Seek or Stickies Only, but most of the time it was 4v4 CTF, Oddball or Team Slayer. Every new LAN weekend was a new chance for us to pull off big plays, get some revenge, or demonstrate some cool new trick in the heat of battle. In our own little small group we started to feel the draw of that competitive gaming freight train that we now call E-sports without even knowing it existed. Eventually, one of my good friends encountered the MLG website while he was randomly browsing the web at school and it just so happened MLG was holding an event in Toronto that summer. This felt like the opportunity of a lifetime for us, never imagining the pace at which the E-sports scene would over the next few years. Our group quickly began to discuss who could attend the event, and ultimately only four of us would actually be able to go. This turned out to be a great situation because many of us wanted to register a team and compete. So it was settled, and after a few months of practice and a bit of travel we finally had our first encounter with the growing E-sports scene.
The event itself was everything we had expected and more. There were booths galore, free samples of Amp’s new energy drink at the time, awesome MLG merchandise, and best of all, a HUGE crowd of fellow gamers. That last bit took the longest to sink in. All my life I had been almost ashamed of my serious gamer side, too afraid to reveal my “nerdy gamer” side to all my “cool” athlete friends at school. But this, this felt like something even they would stoked about. This wasn’t some sweaty, crammed hotel lobby with your typical nerdy looking gamer group (which seems like it can be just as cool, but I’ll talk about that in a later blog). This was a legitimate event with sponsors and casters and pro players signing autographs for tons of fans! Of course myself and my team had done our homework over the few months after we learned what MLG was and had discovered the great pro players of the time like Walshy, the Ogre twins, Karma and TSquared, so we took the opportunity to grab pictures with some of the players and grab autographs like all the other fans. We even got lucky and ran into most of the Str8 Rippin team alone in the main hallway and got to talk to them for a bit and grab a sick group picture.
With all this stuff to do and see, it was hard to keep in mind that we were there to try and compete. Before MLG we had never participated in any serious 4v4 LANs with players of our caliber, so we had no idea how we would match up against the other teams. It turned out we weren’t amazing, but we weren’t terrible either. We ended up missing top 16 in a 3-2 series loss against a team called Street Sweepers, but overall we were happy with our play and communication and hadn’t gone in with any real expectations anyway, so we didn’t take the loss too hard. Since we signed up as a team, we all got to participate in the Free-For-All competition as well. There isn’t much to say about us but I do vividly remember that Naded won the whole thing and one of my teammates was on the losing end of a Killimanjaro on Midship, courtesy of Ogre2.
After being knocked out of the 4v4 and Free-For-All, all that was left for us to do was watch the top teams battle it out on the mainstage. Eventually it got down to the finals between Final Boss and Str8 Rippin, with Str8 Rippin up a series. Final Boss had slowly gotten better over the tournament and I still remember a sick sniper duel on Sanctuary between Strongside from Final Boss and Ghandi from Carbon where they sat at opposite bases with the kills at 49-49. Ultimately, Final Boss won the tournament after some exciting matches and it was time to end my first ever competitive gaming adventure.
Unfortunately, since the 2007 MLG Toronto event, I haven’t been able to attend any more MLG events, although I watched most of them via MLG streamed broadcasts. Without any major tournaments being held in Canada in the foreseeable future it might be a while longer before my next one, but MLG Toronto was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it. So many things from the event are still fresh in my mind and I can’t wait to attend my next big E-sports event, regardless of the competitive game being played. With receding interest in competitive halo, I have shifted my competitive gaming focus over to League of Legends (I’m sure you’ve heard of it) and I have become a pretty hardcore follower of the global competitive scene, but I’ll leave that to my next blog!
Until next time,