By Izo Lopez, a contributor from Mineski.net
A Filipino audience only has two modes: stoic and hype. In the former, the crowd is quiet, shy, with people shifting from foot to foot and content to watch any show without budging until it’s time to applaud. The latter on the hand is, for every bit that the stoic crowd is quiet, instead explosive. You’ve heard it from touring international artists that there’s no crowd quite like a hyped Filipino crowd, but maybe you never thought that we could go just as crazy for video games.
That’s exactly what happened at this year’s Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) held at SMX Convention Center in Pasay. With the venue jam-packed with booths and people, the entire event was like some sort of gaming fiesta. As for competitive gaming, I don’t think there has ever been a single event in the Philippines with as many premier tournaments as the ESGS in the history of competitive gaming in the country.
To start with, there was the Mineski Pro Gaming League Season 8 grand finals, featuring the top-ranked teams and players from both the summer and spring Legs of the MPGL for League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, and Clash of Clans. This multi-game SEAn tournament series has been a staple of the Philippine e-sports scene for almost a decade, and is generally considered to be the primer pro league locally.
The MPGL reached a high note when, in the finals for CS:GO, underdogs 1nconsistent met Mineski – CS:GO point-for-point on the favored team’s best maps (favored here being an understatement, as Mineski – CS:GO is infamously unbeatable on Mirage – until now, that is). Walking the crowd, I got a sense that a large portion of those watching were unfamiliar with either team or of CS:GO in general, with people asking how many points in a round and which side got kills during intense fights, but absolutely everyone was on their heels, cheering for every sudden kill shot. When 1nconsistent won in a tense third game (of a best-of-three) only ahead by two points, you could hear the crowd erupting from the other side of the convention hall.
Right beside it was Brawlfest 2016 organized by PlayBook Video Game Lounge, with this year’s SEA qualifiers for the King of Iron Fist Tournament to be held this December in Japan. Also in Brawlfest were tournaments for Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat XL, Super Smash Brothers, Persona 4 Arena, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Full Boost, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax Ignition, The King of Fighters XIV, and BlazBlue central Fiction. I’d by lying if I said I knew half those games before going to ESGS, but each and every tournament had a stellar turnout.
Though on the first day the audience was made up of mostly community members and tournament players, by the time the various finals started on the third day that corner of the hall was as packed as a standing-room-only concert. People crowded around every screen with the audience gasping as one on whiffs, flinching on extended juggles, and cheering on low-health comebacks. Despite most of the advancing players coming from the same pro team (PlayBook Elite) every competitor was dead serious on winning, teammates be damned. The Tekken 7 King of Iron Fist qualifiers was particularly awe-inspiring, with the whole thing being won by fighting game prodigy Alexandre “AK” Lavarez. He’ll represent the country in the grand finals in Japan this December, and only at 16 years old (the last time he competed internationally, he was 13 in the 2013 Tekken Tag 2 Global Championship, and placed 3rd).
There was also the Vainglory: Stormguard playoffs, featuring 8 top teams and a 2000 USD prize pool. In case you haven’t heard of the game – and it’s likely you haven’t, since it’s only just recently taken off as an esport locally despite being released in 2014 – Vainglory is a mobile MOBA. It’s a familiar enough concept: two teams of three unique heroes duke it out in a lane where an endless wave of minions converge. The twist of course is that this time you’re playing on a phone or tablet. From what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s a worthy counterpart to League of Legends and Dota 2, with slick graphics, intuitive controls, and visceral gameplay.
We’re not yet even done!
There were the League of Legends community matches and MineskiTV’s Sakitan Nights series, both being a set of for-fun games (though with a substantial P10,000 prize pool for Sakitan Nights) between professional and amateur players, but with no holds barred. Trashtalking was allowed, and the shoutcasters put on a show.
The ESGS also featured a Boston Major SEA Qualifiers viewing party, also hosted by Mineski, and live cast by legendary Filipino casters Marlon “Lon” Marcelo and Aldrin Paulo “Dunoo” Pangan among other casters. If you weren’t there, then you missed the drama when the last remaining Filipino Dota 2 team Mineski.GGNetwork stole the win from Fnatic after a 70+ minute game AND against Mega Creeps in a titanic comeback that made the crowd literally jump for joy.
The League of Legends World Championship Finals was broadcast on the main stage on the third day of ESGS, featuring Samsung Galaxy’s heroic game three turn-around (that Baron pit fight!!) and the eventual unprecedented game 5 against the massively favored SK Telecom T1. SKT went on to win their historic third overall and second consecutive Summoner’s Cup, but I don’t think the world had ever seen a LoL finals so electric, with Samsung Galaxy playing their absolute hearts out.
Every single moment of the ESGS was hype. In every tournament and show, the seats were full and the people shouted. Under that one roof, every fan of gaming became a fan of every game. By the end of the third day all the casters had lost their voices (and had collectively demolished three whole packs of candies). Players left booths shaking hands with shaking hands. The entire ESGS was alive.
Can you believe that all these tournaments took place within the span of three days, all right beside each other? If you weren’t there, then you absolutely missed out.
All that’s left to say is congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to the amazing attendees. For those of you who couldn’t attend, now you know better.
See you at ESGS 2017!