Imagine 120,000 people live in a stadium shouting at the top of their lungs. They aren’t watching soccer, football or a concert. They are watching world championship eSports, specifically StarCraft II.
Competitive live video game tournaments are taking the world by storm, and Austin has been impacted as well. As a matter of fact, Austin City Limits’ Moody Theatre is hosting a StarCraft II event May 26th-27th. Fans from all over the world are coming to watch a live match right here in Austin. In addition, there are multiple events that take place monthly in Austin where you can check this phenomenon out.
More on that in a moment. First, some background.
All gamers have heard the phrase, “You are wasting your life with that stuff.” But that attitude is rapidly changing. Did you know that there are gamers out there making over six figures a year competing? It’s true.
Stephano, a well-known and highly respected 19 year old French gamer, earned over $111,000 in 2011 playing StarCraft II, not including his team salary. But Stephano is just one guy. Korean players make even more money and dominate the sport, the way Team USA Basketball dominates the Olympics.
Take that, mom!
Before you quit your day job, know that the skill of these pro gamers is measured by Actions Per Minute (APM), or how many clicks and keystrokes they average each minute. While the casual gamer is said to average around 60 APMs, the pro at this level averages 300. So before you go using this article to defend your gaming obsession, make sure you can hang with the big boys.
So you might be thinking that this is cool and all, but what does it have to do with Austin?
Recently, I was invited by friend and local filmmaker Andrew Lee to an event here in Austin called BarCraft. BarCraft Austin was held at Plucker’s on Rio Grande, and the house was packed.
Nearly 100 people filled the place eating wings, drinking Red Bull and vodka (Red Bull sponsored this event) and cheering on their favorite gamers who were competing head to head in a live stream tournament of StarCraft II. The live event was put on by Major League Gaming and was taking place live in New York City, but being broadcast to BarCrafts all around the globe, including BarCraft Austin.
I sat with Andrew Lee and his friends Andrew O., Josh and Jason as they schooled me in what BarCraft is all about, and helped me understand the Austin connection.
BarCraft Austin monthly events draw anywhere from 100-300 gaming fanatics. But this isn’t your stereotypical gamer crowd. The group was a mix of about 50% professional adults and 50% UT students. As I looked around the room of gamers and fans, I commented on how packed the place was. Andrew Lee mentioned that this was actually a small crowd because Diablo III had just been released. He also told me that BarCraft events are now in over 271 cities in the world. Though they are mainly focused on StarCraft II at the moment, some locations also stream other games.
I sat back at the BarCraft Austin event and soaked it all in. Trying to capture the moment, I listened carefully and overheard things like Andrew O. asking Josh, “Is your Protoss style worthy of my Zerg style yet? It’s all Z vs. Z now and if you aren’t Zerg, well then it’s not important for you anymore.” And something about gaming mouses that will “change your life.”
What the heck they were talking about was far beyond me. My knowledge of video games ended when Wrath of the Lich King came out for World of Warcraft. Needless to say, I’m a little behind the times. Though I still don’t fully understand what they were talking about, I can tell you that everyone at BarCraft Austin was having a blast.
I asked Andrew Lee how he got involved, and he laughed and said that when StarCraft came out – the original – his then girlfriend wasn’t thrilled with him playing all the time. So he made it into his job.
Andrew Lee is producing a documentary called Star Nation, scheduled for release sometime in 2013. Smiling broadly, Andrew chimed, “So now when I play or watch, it is all work related.”
Andrew mentioned that with Austin being such a huge technology hub, where game development is a massive industry, it’s only natural that BarCraft Austin would generate a significant level of interest.
He also suggested that anyone interested should check out the StarCraft II event on May 26th-27th called “Red Bull Battlegrounds” that is taking place at the Moody Theatre.
Whether you can make that event or not, you are into gaming at all or whether you are a professional or a student, get to know these guys at BarCraft Austin. They are really having a good time and they give away stuff at their events like mouses that will change your life.