Here was the bulk of my knowledge about video-game tournaments before Saturday: 1. If you were in a Tecmo Bowl tournament you weren’t allowed to play as the Raiders, because Bo Jackson was unstoppable. 2. The character Jimmy Woods was likely somewhere on the autism spectrum but was able to express his genius by dominating Super Mario Bros. 3 in the film The Wizard.
I learned a lot about the world of eSports at the Downtown Grand this past weekend, when the hotel hosted the official viewing party for Intel Extreme Masters, a major event featuring the world’s best players of the games Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. I spent a portion of my time watching a CS:GO matchup between the Brazilian team Luminosity and the European team NaVi. Frank Villarreal, one of the owners of the Enemy (NME) eSports team and still in his early 20s, was my guide, explaining the action as it happened.
CS:GO is a first-person shooter game in which you stalk your opponents through different settings. The first team to win 16 rounds wins the match, but teams switch sides after 15 rounds—like halftime—because the first position is advantageous.
While all involved at the Grand admitted they were hoping for a larger crowd on Saturday, the weekend was only a signal of things to come, according to chairman Seth Schorr. “It’s our desire at the Downtown Grand to become the premiere video game and eSports destination, which is really something that doesn’t exist today—a 365-days-a-year destination for video-game enthusiasts.” That’s why eSports team the LA Renegades currently has a residency at the Grand, complete with a private practice room.
Schorr’s plans also include teaming up with Turner Broadcasting’s new eSports league and a concept to remake one of the property’s restaurants into an eSports bar and lounge. Whether or not those elements can capture the crowd addicted to watching people play video games on sites like twitch.tv remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: If Jimmy Woods was playing as Bo Jackson, there’d be no doubt as to the identity of the best CS:GO player in the world.