The E-Sports Spectator Movement; BarCraft Brings StarCraft to a Local San Diego Bar
Whether you're aware of it or not, professional video game tournament play is a wildly popular and heavily-participated sport around the world. By far and wide, the popularity girth of electronic sports (or e-sports) resides outside of the United States, where countries like Korea and Singapore have 24/7 gaming cafes. San Diego has a few; the Vortex in Chula Vista and GameRave in Sports Arena,
Back in the 'states, we've seen a fair share of amateur and professional leagues and tournaments crop up over the years. From its early era of traditional arcade and 8-bit console championships (Nintendo PowerFest '94 was held in San Diego!) the combination of easy-access, increasingly cheap technology, plus lucrative prizes, has fueled growth in the e-sports community. Professional gaming slowly encroached into the spotlight in the late 90's, and as American leagues around popular multiplayer titles such as Counter-Strike grew, so did the pots. At the 2005 Cyberathlete Professional League finals in New York City, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel took home $150k during the Painkiller finals, a far cry from the first video game tournament Fatal1ty placed in, receiving a measly $4k for third place at the 1999 Quake series in Dallas, TX. [article about new professional-targeted version of Counter-Strike here]
All that being said, the spectator side of e-sports has been all but confined to community LAN's and personal home viewing in the United States. No more; movements are currently underfoot to bring popular championships for video games like StarCraft II to public sports bars, where gamers can watch and drink to their favorite players or teams as they compete on the big screens normally reserved for professional physical sports. The Blizzard Entertainment title StarCraft II, a popular Mac/PC military sci-fi title that relies on RTS (real-time strategy) game play, is making waves with the grassroots 'BarCraft' movement. BarCraft combines the word "bar" and "StarCraft" and focuses on getting bars to offer viewership of StarCraft tournaments. It was all kicked off in the Seattle-based bar, Chao Bistro, where according to this Wall Street Journal article patron and StarCraft fan Glen Bowers convinced the owner to let him configure five televisions, normally reserved for Seattle Mariners games, to display an upcoming StarCraft match. On the day of the tournament, 150 people showed up at the bar to watch, thanks in part to word spread via online sites like Reddit and gaming forums and blogs. Since then, Chao Bistro regularly offers twice-a-week showings, entertaining average gaming fans, some who are employees of locally-HQ'd software giant’s Microsoft and Amazon.com.
Currently, 26 bars around North America have regularly-scheduled StarCraft tournaments on their bar TV screens; you can now include the San Diego-based Randy Jones All American Sports Grill, owned by the Cy Young-winning Padres legendary pitcher, to this list. According to general manager Daymon Ast, this BarCraft event on August 28 (Sunday from 3pm-8pm) will be the first for the sports bar, adding that the host who brought the event to RJAASG is expecting around 40 attendees. Daymon has reserved the entire outside patio, which offers five televisions for dedicated StarCraft gaming. You can learn more about BarCraft at the teamliquid forum, the popular Reddit page or simply use this Google Maps page to see if there is a BarCraft event in your city. Visit the Randy Jones All American Sports Grill on their website for more details, menu & directions to the venue.