2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Calgary eSports League hosts inaugural event

By Kristy Koehler, January 19 2019 —

On Jan. 15, the Calgary eSports League (CEL) held their inaugural event at TELUS Spark. With eSports exploding in popularity and expected to surpass the National Football League in total viewership by 2020, event organizer Wes Nelson and the team at CEL decided the time was right to bring the competitive gaming scene to Calgary.

“The eSports scene in Calgary is not what it should be,” Nelson said. “Toronto and Vancouver are the hubs of eSports in Canada right now. We just don’t have that in Calgary — everyone wants it to take off and everything is here and in place and ready to go, they just need some sort of catalyst to bring everybody together. We’re trying to provide that.”

What are eSports?

“It’s competitive video gaming — that’s it in a nutshell,” Nelson said. “People have been doing it ever since arcades in the ‘70s but it’s just now started to reach critical mass and attract lots of speculation and investment and funding. It’s poised to overtake traditional sports in the next five years or so.”

Just walk by the Super Smash Bros. table in MacHall during Clubs Week and you’ll witness how popular eSports are, particularly on university campuses. Nelson says he hopes to unite these communities.

“Right now, we’re just trying to bring the community together — the community is kind of disjointed and organized into individual groups around individual games,” he said.

Super Smash Bros. was just one of the games played at CEL’s event. The others were Tekken 7, League of Legends, Rocket League and Overwatch. Nelson knows some of the favourites have been left out, but there are already plans in the works for several more events, featuring different games.

What makes a video game ideal for eSports?

“[They’re] online multi-player games where individual matches can be played in a reasonable amount of time,” said Nelson.

The exhibition tournament at TELUS Spark was livestreamed on Twitch — an online platform where viewers can watch gamers play in real time. The livestream from the Calgary event was very active, with plenty of viewers interacting with each other — and rooting for their friends — on Twitch’s live chat feature.

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology broadcasting students provided live commentary so viewers could follow along with the action. Ryan O’Donnell was one of the students at the helm of the broadcast.

“A big highlight of the night for me was when one of the games — Tekken — finished up there, were probably 100 people just crowded around that screen. […] People were screaming and yelling in celebration of how good of a fight it was,” O’Donnell said. “You could tell that it was a really cool environment and vibe going on.”

At some point in the future, CEL hopes to field a team to play in a professional league. Currently, there isn’t a main governing body for eSports the way, similar to the National Football League or National Hockey League of traditional sports.

“It’s a whole new thing and everyone’s trying to figure it out,” Nelson said. “A lot of times the game developers are trying to own the league for their particular game.”

For example, Overwatch has its own league — the Toronto Defiant play in the league’s Atlantic Division. Teams like the Defiant have huge followings. Fans even sport official team jerseys. Top-tier tournaments can fill huge arenas and gamblers can even bet on eSports outcomes.

CEL is looking to carve out Calgary’s place in the growing esports landscape. They’re holding another event on Feb. 12, again at TELUS hSpark from 6–10 p.m. with a new set of games — StarCraft, Hearthstone, Halo 3 MCC and Splatoon 2. Visit calgaryesportsleague.com for more information.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet