I wrote this a while ago, but thought it was worth sharing. For my 18th birthday, along with some friends, we went to a pub in North London called Meltdown. Meltdown, unlike most pubs, is an Esports bar. And that’s the topic for the following post.
Walking into Meltdown, it was very unlike what I expected from the modern phenomenon of esports and, in particular, Barcraft. Traditional wooden floorboards lined the floor and a bar with an array of drinks and cocktail mixers behind the counter greeted us as we walked in, our gaze wondering around the place we were going to spend the next few hours chilling out in. The only things out of the ordinary were the two PCs on a raised platform and multiple TV screens mounted on the walls, showing various things from the WCS stream to the view of the players’ monitors to one behind the counter, showing an array of cocktails with StarCraft related names.
Since it was StarCraft evening and it was the WCS Season 3 Grand Finals, the TVs displayed the matches taking place on that tournament, but for when we weren’t watching or merely wanted to do something else, the PCs were free to use and play on, which is one of the big reasons why I grew to love this place as the night went on.
The PCs are free to use, so long as you play one game or two and then give them up, so that the next person can use them. And so, since we arrived at the pub as soon as it was open, we were the first ones of the evening to be able to use them. Since only two of us knew how to play StarCraft, we did 2v2s, cheesing with proxy oracles and 4 gates all-ins every game. For me, this was but a mere warm up.
Later that evening, there was a tournament being hosted by the pub – anyone who wanted to play could sign up, with first prize being a beta key for Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in the prize, I thought I’d play; after all, that was kind of the reason why we were there in the first place.
Playing a stranger in a game of StarCraft isn’t new – you do it all the time when your online. But just the feeling that the person you’re playing against is right next to you, and the whole pub is able to see what you’re doing brought the playing experience to a whole new level. I had an occasional glance at the audience behind my monitor, and mostly everyone was watching the match.
After dealing extensive economic damage to the Master’s Zerg player in my first match, this sudden tidal wave of adrenalin washed over me, and I felt my fingers twitch and judder, but luckily not causing many misclicks. Finally after gg’ing, my opponent sat back in his chair, apparently disappointed. I couldn’t prevent a massive smile from appearing on my face as I shook his hand. I pulled a victory pose and sat back down with my friends at the table, having to explain to half of them what had actually happened during the match.
There was a little bit of applause from the bartenders, since the person I had just beaten was apparently favourite to win the tournament, and an employee as well. But my point is that the relief and feeling you get after winning a game on ladder is nothing compared to winning a game, with your opponent right there next to you and other people watching you play. To have the stakes higher, the audience larger and the skill of your opponent better, I can only imagine what the pros feel; they have people chanting their name with thousands of pounds on the line – they dedicate their lives to this. And I can’t blame them.