By Camber Weiss, MLG Intern
When I found out I didn’t make the cut to join the Major League Gaming staff in Orlando, I was disappointed but, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining in this case was the opportunity to check out the New York City BarCraft hosted by One Nation Of Gamers (ONOG). Ever since reading about this recent but fast-growing eSports phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal, I wanted to check one out. I live in the New York area but I missed the last BarCraft when Hurricane Irene shut down public transit and evacuated vast parts of the city. But no storm hit New York this past weekend, making it the perfect opportunity for me to experience the eSports community outside of an MLG Event or online.
After working late Saturday night on the MLG tournament VOD, I woke up in a haze Sunday morning but quickly snapped out of it as I realized I was about to spend the day at a StarCraft 2 party. At 11am, I arrived at Legends Sports Bar at 33rd and 5th, far and away the earliest I’ve ever found myself at a bar.
The first thing that struck me was the venue itself. ONOG picked a great bar to host the event. There was plenty of room, comfy seats, and, most importantly, six enormous screens of StarCraft 2 action. About 20-30 fans were spread throughout the venue watching the deciding game 3 of Boxer vs Stephano. It was hard to gauge the crowd’s favorites, as the BarCraft was sharing space with two different soccer fan clubs, Paris Saint Germain’s PSG NYC Club and Newcastle United’s Toon Army, whose cheers at times overpowered the StarCraft commentary.
When the game ended and Boxer emerged victorious, the StarCraft fans burst into cheers, rivaling the soccer hooligans’ chants and songs. As Huk vs MarineKing started, more and more StarCraft fans showed up, while the soccer crowd began to dwindle. By the time the NFL games started at 1pm, StarCraft was on over 10 screens, and football fans were confined to a small corner of the room as eSports dominated the scene.
During all of this, I met Nick, a StarCraft fan who came in from Upstate New York on only two hours of sleep. I was impressed with his dedication but he explained to me that he had been to the last BarCraft for MLG Raleigh in late August and that the atmosphere and excitement is more than worth the travel and sleep deprivation. This got me pretty excited for the upcoming matches. When IdrA and Boxer took the stage around 2pm, I understood what he meant. The crowd was unabashedly pro-foreigner, but there was still a decent amount of support for the Emperor. The back-and-forth extended seven game series had the crowd going wild. As IdrA finally won game 7, the whole bar erupted into a chant of “USA! USA!” — which would be heard a number of times throughout the day. Hearing 100-plus fans cheering for their country’s eSports pride gave me chills. I knew that this was going to be an epic day.
One of the fun things ONOG set up with this BarCraft was a themed drink menu. You could order a Zerg Creep (a gin, apple juice, and raspberry concoction), a Protoss Energy Core (Rum, Sprite, and pineapple and lime juice), a Terran Stimpack (SoCo, ginger ale, grenadine, and orange juice), or a shot of Vespene Gas (citrus vodka, green apple liqueur, and Midori). I tried all four, and, despite being named after maybe the last thing I would ever want to ingest, the Zerg Creep was my favorite.
All in all, ONOG really did a great job with the event. The organizers cycled through both MLG matchups and some games from IEM. There were giveaways for DotA 2 and CS:Go beta keys and even a movement to get DongRaeGu to join our Barcraft (he couldn’t make it, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless). I talked to Derek of One Nation of Gamers, who set up the event, and he seemed to know exactly what he was doing. ONOG started hosting BarCrafts in DC, which were very successful. Then it expanded to Baltimore, and, eventually, to NYC for this event. The only minor slip ups were some short outages caused by a less-than-stellar internet connection, but these were only minor bumps in the road, as many fans in attendance had their computers, phones, or tablets streaming the games as well.
As somewhat of a StarCraft noob, I was a little nervous I’d be left in the dark during some of the matches. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Pretty much every BarCrafter was more than happy to explain anything to the less familiar fans and I ended up learning more about StarCraft in one day than I had in the past two months of playing. The StarCraft community was incredibly friendly. All day, I was meeting new people, making new friends and learning about the game. With everyone united through eSports, it seemed that no one was a stranger and we were all a big happy StarCraft family. I ran into MLG co-founder Mike Sepso, who was also at his first Barcraft. He was having a great time and described the event as “pretty amazing.” We talked for a bit about what it was like to see this growth in the eSports community. I asked if he was at all surprised by the spread of these BarCraft events. “Sundance and I have always been traditional sports fans,” Sepso told me. “The reason we chose the name and the logo we have is because we always believed that eSports could be seen the same way as baseball or football. The BarCraft scene just goes to show how true that is.”
The scene at Legends for the Grand Finals had to be seen to be believed. At this point in the day, well over 200 fans were in attendance, and almost everyone was rooting for the foreigner, Huk. With his 2-1 extended series lead, the MLG Orlando winner had us all on the edge of our seats in anticipation. Before we knew it, MC’s “GG” flashed across the screen, and, if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Yankees had just won the World Series. The entire bar was chanting Huk! Huk! Huk! Fans were high fiving and taking celebratory shots. It was surreal. As the cheers died down and everyone came back to Earth, BarCraft NYC was over.
BarCraft was one of the most entertaining events I’ve ever attended. I was there for a full 10 hours and it felt like just minutes. Granted, there’s nothing that can compare to being at a live MLG Pro Circuit in person, but a good BarCraft comes pretty close.
Top 5 Crowd pleasers:
- Huk wins MLG Orlando!
- Idra takes game 3 vs Bomber
- Idra wins game 7 vs Boxer
- Idra's Nydus network in HongUn's base
- Boxer takes off for the high yield to start the game
BarCraft Drinks from best to worst
- Zerg Creep
- Protoss Energy Core
- Terran Stim Pack
- Vespene Gas