Coaches barked orders at players, who manically mashed buttons in a dark room littered with empty Red Bull cans and cable salads.
The crowd of 350 gamer aficionados cheered on the competition at BeachCon X, California State University, Long Beach’s annual video game tournament. Saturday’s event took place inside of Walter Pyramid’s The Pointe, and featured an array of video games, including everything from Super Smash Bros. and Rock Band to Counter Strike: GO and League of Legends.
BeachCon X is one link in the growing chain of eSport competitions that serve as a platform for gamers to go head-to-head.
According to Newzoo, a video game research firm, 2014’s global audience of eSport enthusiasts will expand from 89 million to 145 million by 2017. ESPN jumped on the bandwagon in 2008, adding Major League Gaming to its channel, and has recently incorporated pro-gaming into its X Games franchise, beginning with last year’s X Games in Austin, Texas.
Collegiate teams like Zot Boys from University of California, Irvine were present and ready to take their training to the console.
Member Jimmy Le, a freshman cognitive science major at UCI, said that the team’s training consisted of at least nine full games a week over three days. Additionally members play alone in their free time to practice.
“We did some pretty hardcore practicing maybe two days ago and we learned a lot from it ‘cause I think we lost most of the games,” Le said. “If we want to win this LAN (Local Area Network) tournament, we have to step up our game, we gotta be supportive of other people, listen to calls … be a team, and be less of an individual player.”
Team captain of No Practice, Only Pugs Kevin Tu said that his team took preparation seriously. He hosted a three-day training boot camp at his house prior to the competition.
Though the team studied its competitors by analyzing statistics and trends in their performance, Tu admitted that there is another layer to the competition.
“There’s also the mental game as well,” Tu said. “[When] showing up to an in-person event and playing in front of people—there’s always people walking around you, there’s different games going on.”
This was Tu’s first LAN competition. He compared his experience to that of physical sports.
“When I was playing tennis tournaments I got the same feeling in my stomach; you get little butterflies, then you get hyped and then once you’re in the game—you’re zoned,” Tu said. “Nothing else matters, just the computer screen in front of you … it’s a lot more adrenaline than playing online.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Alan Reyes. The freshman dietetics major at Long Beach Community College, who plays Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, takes a more casual approach and doesn’t do more than a warm-up to prepare for competition. He hopes to lock a win under his belt, but he goes to tournaments for something more valuable.
“My problem is that I lack a lot of the actual experience of facing these other characters I never play against,” Reyes said, noting that his most frequent adversary, his brother, repeatedly plays as the same characters. “That’s why I really have to go to these sessions, for that experience.”
Chris San Paolo, the event’s staff coordinator, said that future plans for BeachCon include separating from University Housing and Residential Life in the fall semester and becoming its own organization, allowing for larger budgets and more events.