Melbourne Esports Open and the Growth of Esports in Australia

The weekend of September 1 and 2 saw thousands of people make their way to the first ever Melbourne Esports Open. Many travelled interstate and even internationally to get involved in what looks to be a staple event on the pro gaming circuit.

With a variety of free play, open registration tournaments and demos available for punters to try, the ‘MEO’ was more than a sporting event, it was a festival and celebration of all things gaming.

Where the AFL might include mini goal kicking competitions or a handball tournament for the kids, the MEO featured cosplay, free play demos and consoles set up to experience currently unreleased games. It would be unfair to say that the MEO laid the foundation for gaming events.

PAX and Comicon are just two events that have done a lot of the groundwork to build the culture. An Esports weekend seemed the next logical step. Whilst the MEO didn’t pioneer Australian Esports, it has set the bar very high.

Coupled with the tribal fanaticism of Melbourne sports fans, the organisers and sponsors look to be on to a winner.

Melbourne Esports Open

But what is Esports?

Well, it’s one of the most rapidly growing forms of gaming entertainment in Australia and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Australians have always been mad enthusiasts for sport and known as a great sporting nation.

The MEO 218 has proven this devotion to professional sports can and has spread to video games, with an arena filled with screaming fans. Faces painted and jerseys adorned, the atmosphere made it feel like an AFL Grand Final.

With the popularity of games like Overwatch, League of Legends and Fortnite comes the desire to compete in those games. I have no hope of running onto the MCG and playing a game of footy for Richmond and just the same I have no chance of getting picked by dominant Overwatch team Sydney Drop Bears.

Despite my own lack of skill, however, I love to watch the best teams in the country play each other. Same as any other sport, video games are a legitimate competition between teams to prove who has the higher skill, better strategy and smoothest teamwork to take home the trophy and prize money.

Oh yeah… there’s some big prize money in these games as well as sponsorship deals.

Esports, on the Grow

With the fierce competition comes even fiercer rivalries and fans buying jerseys to support their favourite team and players. But why is it so entertaining to watch?

One reason is the production value of an event like the Melbourne Esports Open 2018. From the outside looking in, a game like Overwatch or League of Legends is a frantic mash of colours and fireballs.

Not the case at the MEO. Brilliant casting talent and camera work help dissect the action with play by play analysis and replays. Just like great ball movement or positioning in a game of footy, understanding the player’s actions is the first step to appreciating Esports.

The way the Melbourne Esports Open presented their finals series was easy to digest. Even if you were new to Esports, there was an explanation of the map or game objective. The ‘shout casters’ or commentators as they are known in traditional sports, did a brilliant job of making sure no one was left behind.

It was clear they were trying to share their enthusiasm and passion for the game but mindful of using too much ‘jargon’.

Making Sure Everyone ‘Gets It’

A game like Overwatch has a huge fan base and continues to grow, but when presenting an event like the MEO to people you can’t assume everyone has as much game knowledge or the depth of understanding as you do. And this is where the staff really shined to make sure the finals were enjoyable and accessible for all in attendance, not just the die-hard fans.

Clearly labelled team banners and player cameras showed all the intensity of the action in an easily understood way. The Melbourne Esports Open was one of the best-presented events I’ve been to, they have really set the example on how to help Esports grow in Australia.

Esports also works to bring that feeling of inclusiveness and team mentality to those who perhaps aren’t as physically capable or interested in traditional sports. This point resonated with me heavily on Sunday as I watched the League of Legends High School ELeague.

Melbourne High School played against Roxburgh College and as I sat there spectating all the action I couldn’t help but notice the massive cheer squads from both schools. It’s no secret that gamers can be a bit ‘nerdy’ but I saw two teams of five kids who maybe had a hard time at school representing hard and at that moment they were all kings.

Every tower that went down, every big team fight and every kill was a roar as Margaret Court arena was filled with chants.

Esports is for Everyone

It was great to see parents and guardians enthusiastically asking questions of their gaming mastermind children, I could see a bond forming as the realisation sunk in that there is a potential career in gaming for these kids.

As the industry continues to grow, so too will the opportunities; for journalists like myself as well as behind the scenes staff. There has been a steadily growing worldwide movement as Esports becomes legitimised everywhere.

The Melbourne Esports Open 2018 has taken a giant leap to help Australia catch up to what is happening in the global scene. All of the players, coaches and organisation owners I met were extremely happy to have a chat about the event and what goes into being so heavily involved in the Esports scene.

The one resounding comment I received was “make it bigger.” More tournaments, make it four days, more games, open earlier and close later. If that isn’t an indication as to the popularity of Esports in Melbourne and the outstanding success of the whole MEO team then I don’t know what is.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to attend this event, to see the blossoming of Melbourne Esports and I eagerly await the Melbourne Esports Open 2019.

PowerUp! attended the Melbourne Esports Open 2018 as guests of the event.

Jamie Sherlock
Jamie Sherlock
Gamer, writer & sports enthusiast. I'm interested in all things RPG and stats. I believe fantasy sports teams is just DnD for the guys who made fun of kids who like DnD, but that doesn't stop me from participating in either hobbies. Unashamed Blizzard & Wizards of the Coast fanboy, if you got a problem with that you best roll initiative punk!

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