The DreamHack Open London digital festival was one of the most highly-anticipated professional gaming events to come to Britain this year — and I got to watch people who are amazing at computer games win more money in one day than some people earn in a year.
Over two days, it held tournaments in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Call of Duty: Advance Warfare —
Super Smash Bros. Melee, as well as Ultra Street Fighter IV.
I went on the Saturday which saw eight CS:GO teams win their respective national competitions for prizes worth $US2,000 (£1,318) to $US20,000 (£13,181).
It was pretty epic. Although, you can’t help but be jealous of people who get paid to play video games for a living.
The DreamHack Open London event was the first of its kind in Britain. It was right next to London's Olympic Park.
Nerds from across Britain and Europe flocked to the Copper Box Arena in the newly-renovated area in East London to watch professional gamers play various games. However, the day I went was primarily focused on the first-person shooter (FPS) game Counter-Strike (CS).
DreamHack is the world's largest digital festival and originated in Sweden. DreamHack events host esport competitions -- basically professional video gaming -- as well as cosplay competitions as a side show. Different heats of the competition now take place in France, Romania, Spain, Britain, and Sweden.
Professional gaming events are huge. Around a quarter of a million people will watch matches live streamed and thousands more attend the event in person like me.
It may look less flashy than other events that are related to computer gaming or cosplay but Dream Hack is mainly for super serious FPS and cult gamers. You are there to compete in or watch the tournaments and to buy hardware.
People will spend thousands of pounds on the best and fastest modified computer to make their gameplay better.
Even some of the logistically the best (and pimped up) keyboards and mice can cost hundreds of pounds. This Corsair keyboard has the added extra of having lights pulsate when you touch a key. Even the types of keys for the keyboard can be modified to your liking. For example, some are less sticky, while some give a more clunky feeling when pressed.
... as well as rubber thumb grips to stop their thumbs slipping and blistering from extended gameplay. Basically, it's awesome for proper grip.
Between tournaments and hardware shopping, dozens of video gaming stations are set up for people to play some games for free. Here, people are playing one of the newer versions of the classic game Street Fighter.
There was even an open entry for a Nintendo Super Smash Brothers game competition. Absolutely anyone off the street can enter and try to win the tournament -- you don't need to be part of a professional gaming league. The prize pool totalled $20,000 (£13.181).
But if you just wanted to chill out and try out some games on souped up hardware it took a while to get on any of the machines. The queue for all free to play games looked like this all day. So you'd have to be happy watching a lot of the time. Also, as you can see, the event is usually dominated by guys.
There were a few women there who got to play on the machines -- except they were actually there with Intel, which was one of the sponsors and had a stall at the event.
Intel offered workshops on how to build your own PC, which is the rite of passage for any serious gamer. CS and other FPS gamers rarely use Apple products because you cannot modify existing units. PC gamers usually source all components from different companies depending on their specifications. But It's not as difficult as it sounds.
The event was also sponsored by drinks company Monster Energy, which was giving away these huge cans of caffeine and sugar for free.
Gamers run off energy drinks and sweets because if you're a playing a game for hours, it's difficult to stop to eat a proper meal. There weren't any food stalls there, only this sweet stall and one cafe.
But the main event was watching some of the world's best Counter-Strike players battle it out in the tournament. First prize for winning this day's competition was $20,000 (£13,181). The team that comes in last still gets $2,000 (£1,318).
There are two teams: One is a terrorist cell and the other is a counter-terrorist unit. Each team consists of five people and a coach, who you can see here standing behind the players.
Each round sees both teams trying to eliminate each other after spawning simultaneously at the beginning on a map. Here are one of the teams huddling before they start the tournament.
However, in addition to eliminating the other team, the teams can win by completing the bomb defusal objective. The terrorist team must carry a bomb and plant it on one of the designated zones. It has to protect it from being disarmed by the counter-terrorist unit before it explodes to win. However, the terrorists can also win if the time runs out with no conclusion.
Professional gaming competitions have live commentary, like any sport, with superstar CS analysts that are as revered as much as famous football pundits and commentators such as Gary Lineker and Peter Drury.
I even got to meet one of the world's most famous and respected Counter-Strike commentators Anders Blume. He had a whole host of fans trying to grab a picture with him.
The team players are also treated like rock stars. Fans usually buy white t-shirts from the event vendor to get signed by the players.
There were also a lot of people who brought their own keyboards to be signed by the professional gamers.
The first heat of the CS:GO tournament was exceptionally tough. Young British team EZSkins were deemed as outliers of the whole competition but were up against one of the best gaming teams in the world, France's EnVyUs.
As you can see, EZSkins was struggling to win a round against EnVyUs and the whole match was over in less than half an hour.
Other teams which competed included Dignitas (not to be confused with the Swiss euthanasia clinic), Renegades, Team SoloMid, Copenhagen Wolves, G2.Kinguin and SK Gaming.
However, one of the stand out matches was seeing EZSkins giving the more established team Renegades a run for their money ...
... and eventually winning against them. This was a huge deal for the team and CS:GO fans in Britain because they were tipped to lose the entire competition.
Since there were so many heats, the tournament went on until past midnight and most people had to get the train home. However, it didn't stop nearly quarter of a million people watching the finals via livestream.
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