As we continue our introduction to eSports, we’re going to take a look at another oft-overlooked but vital role in the eSports scene: event organiser. In this article, we’ll show you how you can organise your own eSports events, starting from viewing parties and small LAN competitions to big tournaments broadcast around the world.
How to run a viewing party
Let’s start with the most basic event: a viewing party. The idea here is to just meet up and watch an eSports tournament broadcast with your local community. These events are often held in bars and pubs; in StarCraft parlance they are called BarCrafts. Viewing parties are nice because they don’t require as much infrastructure as other eSports events. All you need is a venue, a projector or HDTV to show the matches, and an audience to watch them.
While this setup is conceptually simple, actually implementing it can be difficult. StarCraft caster and event organiser Sean “Day” Plott says, “event organisation is a learned skill: you will be doing a lot of juggling, managing people and resources.”
A small StarCraft II viewing party, or BarCraft, in Stockholm. (Source: Johan Ronstrom, Wikipedia)
Let’s start with the venue. You could hire an event hall, book a room in your school or company, or you might just take over a section of a local pub. This will require some money, some persuasion or both. Your venue needs a sufficiently fast and stable internet connection to show the matches and seating for your audience. A place to buy food and drink is helpful too.
Next is equipment. You’ll want a big television or projector and screen, which might be provided by your venue or might be brought from home. You’ll also need a way to tune into your chosen broadcast; usually a laptop or desktop PC connected to the venue’s internet connection.
Finally, you need an audience to actually attend your event, which requires advertisement. Advertise as much as you are able both online and offline. Online, post in community groups and forums, as well as local / hyperlocal publications. Offline, post flyers and make announcements in schools, tech firms, internet cafés, game stores and anywhere else that will allow you to do so. Your goal is to saturate your area, so that anyone with sufficient interest will know about your event.
So: venue, equipment, audience. Just assembling these three basic components is a lot for one person to handle, so you may find it helpful to make a small team. Recruit a few friends, and assign everyone roles – perhaps one person can handle the venue, another equipment, and a third advertisement. Money is another important consideration; at this stage you’ll want to record all income and expenses, if nothing else.
(There are plenty of additions that could be made to this formula for a viewing party as well – you might think about giveaways or competitions for the audience, selling food or merchandise or arranging for local pros to attend. For more ideas and help, check out Blizzard’s BarCraft guide [PDF]).
How to run a tournament
Let’s assume that your viewing party goes well, and you learn a bit about event management. Now let’s add a tournament into the mix, so that we can make our own excitement instead of watching a stream. We’ve already covered the basics of running a tournament, so we’ll just make a few short points here.
The first thing is that you’ll need a bigger venue, with space for computers to be set up. Your first tournament is probably best run as Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC); for this reason it may be helpful to run your tournament at an existing LAN party event. Even if people bring their own computers, you’ll still need tables, chairs, readily accessible power outlets, a sufficiently strong internet connection and networking supplies like a switch, network cables, wireless, etc. etc.
Pictured: gamers at the popular insomnia LAN. Not pictured: an incredible amount of network cable, power outlets and other infrastructure (Source: Multiplay)
Of course, your competitors are not the only people that you need to look out for. You’ll likely have a local audience for your tournament, so it’s worth using a projector or a large HDTV to show ongoing matches. Of course, this means that you’ll also need a caster and observer to explain the action. You might use our introduction to casting to do this yourself, or find an experienced caster to visit the tournament and provide a more high-level commentary. As with many aspects of event organisation, having made good connections here is often helpful.
The added complexity of a tournament will require more people, more money, and more networking / persuasion. You might charge an entry fee to cover your expenses, including the prize pool for your tournament. At this stage, it may also be worthwhile to contact sponsors – either local businesses or technology-related national or international corporations. The developers of your game may also chip in, most likely by providing merchandise that you can use in giveaways or as tournament prizes.
These giant novelty checks don’t come cheap. (Source: Helena Kristiansson, ESL)
As always, grow your team carefully, document your financials and expect for things to go wrong. People won’t show up, networks will fail, power circuits will blow. Plan for these occurrences as best as possible; test beforehand and have backups of critical equipment.
How to run a broadcasted tournament event
Let’s assume that your initial events have turned out OK, you’ve learned a lot and you’ve covered your expenses. So at the moment we have a tournament – what’s next? Well, people might want to tune in to watch the tournament if they can’t make it in person, so let’s talk about broadcasting.
Broadcasting adds another level of complexity to your operations, requiring additional equipment, staff members and a much faster internet connection than you’ve needed previously. You’ll need to ensure a good-looking stream with balanced sound levels, backed with a selection of on-screen talent for casting, hosting, interviews and filling time. Your staff members and on-screen talent will likely require payment for their services, making incoming money from entry fees or sponsorships more important to secure. Advertisement is also important, to ensure that you can provide enough value to your sponsors, fill your venue’s seats and maximise your online audience.
You don’t need a fancy set like this. Just get a blank background and ensure the game itself looks as good as possible. (Source: Navneet Randhawa, aceresport.com)
The online audience is generally more demanding and distracted than a local audience, so getting things right for your big event will require a lot of practice and preparation. Start small, test often, fail quickly and try to find people with experience broadcasting for aneSports audience.
At this stage (or even before), your financials and legal responsibilities become significant. It’s worth talking to a lawyer, experienced businessman or a financial advisor to make sure you are following good practices, obeying the law and just covering your expenses. You may be able to find such a person at your school, or in the family of a friend or colleague. Even a short, casual talk can be very rewarding.
How to not get overwhelmed
Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be your first event. (Source: Riot Games)
This can all be a bit overwhelming, but you don’t have to go out and start the next World Championship for the game of your choice. Take the advice of the Rosen brothers, organisers of a successful home-grown StarCraft tournament in Texas: “start small, iterate, learn and improve.” Good luck.