Brought to you by Graeme Moore & Theo Goyvaerts of European Games Week
Irish esports is something that only recently gained massive popularity but has been around for longer than most think. The terminology may change, but the essence has always stayed the same. Irish esports started off as a seed and has now grown into a small sapling, but there is a long way to go before it’s as big as its brothers across the pond. To see how the future would look like, we must take a look into the past and see how it all started out (This article isn’t a full deep dive into gaming in Ireland but more of a recent compendium of what’s brought Ireland to this point in the esports scene). This information has been taken from a personal look at the ‘gaming scene’ that myself/colleagues and partners have been involved in. One particular partner we will be interviewing for this piece is Marvin.ie which is part of the Hungry Group out of Denmark and how their passion and foresight into the industry has been the driving force behind esports in Ireland for several years
But let’s look at esports as a whole first
What is esports and what is competitive gaming, are the parallel’s too close to make a comparison or is it something that can be easily explained but so often not? We believe it’s the latter, put simply competitive gaming is bespoke gaming ventures with a basic structure, no managers with no organisations or governing bodies (Think playing football with your friends on a sunny day in the local park). Esports on the other hand, is your professional football association as it’s aimed at a much higher level of play consisting over leagues and tournaments all professional managed by committee’s/managers and partners. It consists of esports organisations and clubs, governing bodies and federations; it has more structure and rules than anything else! We even have esports lawyers and solicitors now!
Esports is the evolved version of competitive gaming and has been growing internationally for years but as is typical with Ireland and in many things we do, we were late to the party but not as much as people may think
The very first time I entered into an esports tournament was back in 2006 and I entered an Unreal Tournament 2004 at GameCon at the Spa Hotel. I did horrible in it, got completely destroyed in every match and got knocked out early. As I recall, the winner of the tournament won a new graphics card and ended up giving it away for free to the person sitting next to him due to the fact that he won several before and had no interest in it. But I never forget that first time playing in a dark room lit up with monitor screens and neon cases. This was my first experience of competitive gaming.
- Theo Goyvaerts (Head of esports – European Games Week)
Over the years, competitive gaming became popular in Ireland through LANs such as Gamescom, DarksideLAN, MidLans and many more. These LAN events became very popular mainly due to the accessibility of broadband in these locations which in a time that a decent connection or none at all would became sought after properties. You can socialise with other gamers, shared music and movies (these things happened!) and compete against each other in various tournaments. Prizes back then were mostly hardware and games and even with that a lot of trades would happen on the floor. Those days were great though, they had some of the best events ever held in Ireland and has left lasting impressions anybody that remembers them. But that wasn’t to last long.
Then 2008 came knocking on the door, with a battering ram.
LANs just died out completely and all of the good events one by one started to disappear. The lack of available volunteers and the new rules set by Hotels disallowing 48 hour long LAN events. This was a sad time for Irish gaming scene and event’s and it took nearly 4 years before it started to recover.
Then we had NoobCon
After a number of years with no large events (when we say large we mean LAN size), there was an announcement of NoobCon which was based in Cork on 16th of November which would feature €20,000 prize pool for a StarCraft tournament and major backing too. With only 1 week to go for the event to kick off, it was suddenly and mysteriously cancelled with no real explanation causing confusion and anger within the scene that was felt for years to come. It was a disastrous event for the Irish esports scene but one that spurred on community leaders in the scene to stand up even more.
Currently at the time of Noobcon, on boards.ie the Irish Fighting Games Community was created and lead Brian Quigley & Aaron Jackson to hold a number of fighting games tournaments in and around Dublin. This scene is very close and has a dedicated following that went to numerous FGC tournaments. This began the start of the FGC era in Ireland and it began to pick up speed and prestige.
Shortly after NoobCon, during EirtaKon in Croke Park, Theo Goyvaerts and Bryan McNamara met up and started the foundation of Gaming Leagues of Ireland which later turned into G-Series events. Their very first esports event was held on 17th of March 2014 in the Alex Hotel, with just 10 pcs and 100 people to spectate. Their first League of Legends tournament was held at that time and saw Looney Goons coming on top. This started the G-Series events which happened every March, July and November in Dublin. G-Series went on to be a very successful time in Irish esports hosting 9 esports tournaments and countless viewing parties’ attracting well over 1,000 people each time. In 2017 however G-Series closed its doors as its founders went on to create even bigger things in the gaming space in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the FGC tournaments that Aaron and Brian organised slowly turned into the Celtic Throwdown events. The CT were prestige FGC tournaments that had international players from around the world competing in them, they started to do tours and even larger events! They were known for hosting top level events and an organisation that people could trust and rely on. Between CT and G-Series, Ireland finally was looking forward into the esports horizon ready to take on anything that was thrown at it (Well nearly anything)
Then GamerCon happened.
One of the biggest disasters in Irish Gaming event scene to ever occur in March 2017. GamerCon which was announced as Ireland’s largest ever gaming event and attracted some of the biggest names in the world such as Sony/Nintendo/Creative to its doors. What suddenly people saw as the next level of gaming in Ireland soon turned disastrous and affected the Irish scene once again. The event oversold tickets in a high number and with a number of factors not considered; the main volume of attendees flooded the event at the same time. This left families and gamer’s alike waiting over 3 hours in the cold and rain and in the end many didn’t get in at all. While factors of the event did run smoothly, it was still a damaging public event which made the International news and newspapers. It was something that left a lasting and damaging impression on the Irish scene, similar to what NoobCon did. At the same time a number of other events which had already been planned to capitalize on the growing gaming scene in Ireland were affected and in turn a rolling effect lasted 12 months where both trust from industries and consumers were left on the floor
But from the Ashes, the scene has risen to once again prove itself.
Celtic Throwdown continued to do their events, attracting more and more attention. Bryan McNamara began to start a new Gaming Event Company called RAID Gaming Solutions Ltd. 8Bit Gaming Conferences started to appear, led by Graeme Moore which while focused on retro gaming had small elements of competitive gaming and Gamerfest lead by Stuart Dempsey who created a trusted brand of gaming on the west coast of Ireland.
Change began to happen in 2018 in Ireland; people have forgotten GamerCon (to a degree) and were willing to try new events. Celtic Throwdown, RAID Gaming Solutions Ltd and the newly formed Dublin Games events started to host and run of events in Dublin and around the country. The scene started to grow once more and this time, the community took the stage. The events in circulation in Ireland brought together the community around Ireland and its hosts and owners are all part of that community breeding hope into a future that for some long looked un-certain. More and more companies, both locally and internationally are now looking to Dublin and Ireland as a ground for new trusting opportunities
One such company as mentioned previously is Marvin.ie. Marvin.ie has been supporting esports in Ireland for a number of years now and this year they headline as European Games Week esports partner. We interviewed them to get their first-hand account of why they put so much trust in esports in Ireland:
When did you first sponsor esports in Ireland and with whom?
It all started when our Managing Director came across RAID on the internet in 2017. We got in touch with them and a partnership emerged that allowed us to know and understand much more of the market here in Ireland.
What leads to that decision?
We are part of the Hungry Group which is based in Denmark. Over there, they are all game savvy and involved in Esports sponsorships for a while. So it was always on the radar, firstly because we identify with the public a lot! and we know that ordering food is “part of the routine”. And secondly, because we are completely aware of the magnitude that the market is taking and we want to be part of it!
How has presenting yourself in that space been received?
As I mentioned before, the link is almost natural and as we want to engage in a genuine way, the public has received us very well and with that the business opportunities only increase as well!
Why do you continue to support esports in Ireland?
Marvin will become THE CHOICE among the players in Ireland, and to get there we have to be present! I think the approach is pretty much the same, we are taking seriously the idea to take over the games scene, but having fun at the same time, enjoying as they do when playing or working to developing a new game for example.
Why are you supporting EGW?
Being part of the DGF (Dublin Games Festival) last year was a success and showed us the potential of the event for this year. We know EGW is the place to be, the team behind it knows exactly what to do, puts us in front of people who matter to Marvin and our goals.
- Annelise Canesso – Marketing Specialist (Marvin.ie)
By having organisations such as Marvin.ie supporting esports in Ireland, we can bring the dedication of our players and partners to a much wider audience and really showcase what Irish esports is on an international scale
But what does 2019 and beyond hold for Ireland?
With Dublin Games re-branded as European Games Week, we are holding our newly rebranded event on the 17th to 22nd of September in the Croke Park. EGW will host some of the biggest esports tournaments this year and also host a 2 day industry summit which has its own dedicated esports track, attracting esports professionals from around the world to network, learn and evolve with each other. Celtic Throwdown is organising 8 events over the year for the “Road to Celtic Throwdown”. Comic Con Ireland (Dublin Comic Con) & Gamerfest Ireland have partnered with Player1 Events to bring Insomnia Gaming Dublin in November. RAID Gaming Solutions Ltd are now supporting multiple gaming events in Ireland and abroad from esports and community aspects and going further into many other areas.
Ireland has a bright future for esports and gaming, with such events as these we are only going to start to attract more domestic and international attention. Hopefully soon the government will give more recognition to the ever growing games industry in Ireland and help support it more, especially the esports scene here. It has nearly been 6 years when the gaming renaissance first started in Ireland, but we have seen nothing yet and we will continue to grow and show Europe and the world that Ireland is the next esports destination and will soon be an esports hub of Europe and maybe one day, further afield.
One thing is clear though, without the support of the community here in Ireland, our partners at home and abroad and the pure dedication of the team, Ireland wouldn’t be where it is today but let’s not pack ourselves on the backs just yet. To really become what the tech scene here is in Ireland in gaming terms, more support, more dedication and hard work and more acknowledgment from governments such as ours is needed. Gaming and esports specifically isn’t going anywhere and neither are we.
Brought to you by the team behind European Games Week
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