Overwatch players draw first blood at Toronto’s Eaton Centre
Nine teams of three duked it out against each other on gaming laptops Feb. 24 while fans had their eyes glued onto the store’s big screen. When new spectators arrived to see what the commotion was about, they ended up cheering as players captured an objective, made a clutch heal, or dove in for the kill.
Players from across the GTA competed in the tournament, including David Huang. He and his University of Toronto team represented Canada in March at the annual Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship in Arizona. They made it to the semi-finals but they aim to destroy next year’s competition.
Huang welcomed the energy of the Microsoft tournament, especially after the Fiesta Bowl.
“It’s basically like networking,” he said. “You get to meet with other gamers that really love playing Overwatch. Just hanging out with them, making memorable moments — that’s what it means to a lot of people.”
Evan De Melo, of Burlington, is a flex player who has a peak skill rating of 4,600 out of a maximum of 5,000. But more than being a Grandmaster in Overwatch, he’s excited about the increasing popularity and recognition of eSports, especially on the backdrop of the Olympic games.
“It just gives me an opportunity to take this more seriously, and wanna do better for myself and maybe just make a career out of this,” he said.
Maryam Mohamed, an avid collector of more than 400 video games and a tournament organizer, agreed.
“It’s even better if you do it professionally,” she said. “It’s a really viable thing. It’s a viable career now, and that’s pretty great.”
Mohamed welcomed the energetic crowd during the tournament and recalled how gaming today differed from the past.
“Using high school as an example, you have the jocks and then you had the nerds who would play games,” she said. “And it was always seen as an inferior type of entertainment. Seeing it come into the eSports field, and seeing it grow so much kind of removes that stigma, and it’s fine now to play video games.”
Mohamed worries that segments of players may be left behind because of the expense of modern computer games and she hopes players will continue to have access to them in the future.
“Xbox and the PS4 sell so well because they’re just the compact $300 or $400 thing that can just play all these games for you. But for (computers), you might have to get a graphics card that alone is like $300,” she said.
Microsoft’s tournament lasted until about 8:30 p.m., when Huang, De Melo and a reporter won the finals as team “top kek.”
“It feels pretty good, because it’s like an opportunity for many other players like me to just play the game they love. It’s an opportunity for many of us to shine as players,” Huang said.
The next Microsoft Overwatch tournament will be at the same store on March 11 .