I learned about the Lakeside Showdown tournament on Twitter. A friend of mine had retweeted it and I was curious especially since the last Overwatch LAN Ray and I attended was a complete disaster. After finding out that it was a new group of people running the show, I decided to bring it up to Ray to see if he wanted to compete. However, a few weeks before the tournament, he ended up getting a job and couldn’t get the Saturday off. Even though he had to work, Ray insisted that I should go if i really wanted. So I grabbed my Canon camera, hopped on a Metra train and made my way to Ignite Gaming Lounge in Skokie, IL.
First I want to talk about the venue. This specific venue is a second and new location for Ignite and located about 30 minutes away from downtown Chicago. It’s easily accessible by public transportation as the yellow line stop is located right across the street. It was my first time being in an Ignite venue and I was very impressed by the layout. I might even say it’s better than most of gaming lounges I’ve been in back in California! There were plenty of computer stations, consoles and even stations for fighting games with fighting sticks. They even have an area for Rock Band and the ability to do casting for tournaments. Also, there were TVs throughout the venue that showed the livestream and even other tournaments happening in other esports. And most importantly, there’s a bar and food. Can’t have a gaming lounge without alcohol and cheese curds. So overall, my first impression of the venue was really good. My only suggestion was that they should install a PA system and if they did, I wished they utilized it more to make announcements.
The turnout was really good! They were able to get 16 teams to play in the tournament and there were many players from different experience in competitive Overwatch. Some players were completely brand new to playing on a team, many only played in the past Chicago LANs, quite a few played on Open Division teams and/or collegiate teams and a few were semi-pro Contenders players. While everyone was there to compete against one another, it became a chance for everyone who we mostly talked to on Discord to meet up and actually hang out in person. Some of the people there weren’t competing, such as myself, mostly to network or support their friend/family member who were competing.
One of the things I noticed after moving out here is that esports has not really developed. There are so many great players that are residing in the Chicagoland area but there wasn’t really a big scene. Back in California, there were many small PC bangs, gaming lounges and even the first Esports Arena in Santa Ana. Colleges even embraced esports and spent money on esports centers within their campus like UC Irvine. On the East coast, tournaments were regularly held and colleges had also embraced esports. In Texas, the Esports Stadium was retrofitted in a convention center. Everywhere but the midwest has an Overwatch League team.
Seeing the turnout and enthusiasm of new players at this event gave me hope of seeing esports, particularly Overwatch, grow in Chicago. It gave up and coming players a taste of what competition feels like. It really made me so happy. Also the fact that Ignite opened a new location just means that they are growing and hope they open more venues through the Chicagoland area. More venues means more opportunities to hold tournaments and bring out Chicagoan’s competitive side.
Overall it seemed like the tournament was ran really well. It did get a little chaotic when the venue opened to the public which is where I think a PA system would have helped. I know there were some ping and audio issues, but as the day went by, there weren’t as many complaints and pauses that I saw. There may have been some but I might have missed them. I did end up leaving the venue before the last quarter-final game because I had a long commute home and in a way I kind of regret not being there as I heard it was really hyped at the end. I want to keep supporting those working on this community as I do feel they have the passion.
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All the photos I took are on the ChicagoOW website as well as the gallery HERE
But that is it for me. I will see you all next time!