Rather than the live music the Dekker Centre usually plays host to, the event centre hosted something a little different last weekend: a live esports event.
The group called North Battlefield held an esports event last Saturday, called North Battlefield Big-KO Saga. Participants played video games including Super Smash Bros 4 Wii U and Super Smash Bros Melee in the event centre’s lobby. The main event took place on the main stage in front of a giant screen.
Super Smash Bros., involves selecting characters featured in a number of different video game universes. There is Mario, Luigi and villain Bowser, along with Pokemon, Sonic the Hedgehog and others. With the different buttons representing different attacks, characters beat each other up.
North Battlefield has previously hosted events at the North Battleford Public Library. The Dekker Centre event was intended to be bigger, and people came from Saskatoon, Onion Lake and area to play video games and socialize.
Noah Cooke is a founder of North Battlefield and helped organize the event. He said it was inspired by a recent esports event in Regina, in which Big-KO (Kylen Obermayer) competed.
Obermeyer, who the event was named after, is one of Saskatchewan’s top Smash Bros players. He has competed in Las Vegas at Evo, short of the “Evolution Championship Series” which its website describes as “the largest and longest-running fighting game tournaments in the world.” Obermeyer describes Evo as “the Super Bowl for fighting games.”
Competitors go by aliases. Some who appeared at the recent North Battleford event include Scubbs, Pink, Light Void, EPiC, Pyraxy, Nidgy and B-Ray.
The Winter 2018 Saskatchewan Power Ranking for Smash 4 include Scubbs at number three, Pink four and Light Void ten. Short-Hoppe is number four in Saskatchewan for Melee.
Cooke said planning this year’s event was “a big learning experience” and that the group intends to host another event next year. Awards included a belt (in the spirit of KO’s character, a boxer named Little Mac) and a trophy.
The event also raised money for the Canadian Mental Health Association North Battleford branch.
Esports is gaining popularity as the often isolated video game playing is brought into a larger social context.
Whether or not esports should be considered sports, Cooke said, depends on who you talk to. Cooke makes the distinction that esports aren’t a subcategory of sports, but a separate category.
“A lot of people are like ‘Yo, they’re going to put video games in the Olympics.’ It’s like ‘No, don’t do that,’” Cooke said. “The Olympics are the Olympics, it’s for sports.”
“I think we should keep them different because they are different.”
Live esports events have gained popularity especially in South Korea, and large events to watch competitors play video games appear in large American arenas.
While esports lack physicality, an advantage of esports, Cooke said, is he can play to the best of his ability against his younger brother Ezra, as opposed to conventional sports in which two people of different ages might have different abilities.
The newest installment in the Smash Bros. series, Smash Ultimate, will be released later this year.
Obermeyer expects the esports scene in North Battleford to grow.
“Once more people see how it works, it’ll encourage them to try it [and] they’ll get involved,” Obermeyer said.