It’s safe to say that esports — multiplayer video games played for live or online spectators — and the general concept of watching people play games online have exploded in popularity in recent years.
Twitch, a live-streaming platform for gaming, measured more than 9 million active streamers as of April 2021. YouTube channels for popular gamers draw tens of millions of views. Flagship publications within the gaming world have suggested that professional esports players are athletes. Even the Sacramento Kings have gotten in on the burgeoning trend with an esports facility inside Golden 1 Center and their team, Kings Guard Gaming, which plays NBA 2K in a virtual league.
Now a local business group is partnering with the Kings and Golden 1 Center to bring an esports competition to the capital city. The inaugural College Esports Tournament is taking Aug. 18-20 at the FireUp Esports Lounge in Roseville and at Golden 1 Center.
noted that the tournament includes students from UC Davis and Sierra College as well as Loyola Marymount University, University of Colorado, and CSU campuses in Dominguez Hills, Fresno and Fullerton.A press release from the Kings
The group behind the event, Golden California (also doing business as California Center) held a kickoff event July 14 at Flatstick Pub in the DOCO.
“Our whole goal really is to bring esports activity into the Sacramento region, and we want to do something in the collegiate competition because there really hasn’t been a large-scale California college esports competition,” says Gordon Hinkle, vice president for Golden California and its subsidiary College Esports International.
The kickoff attracted notable residents such as former NFL wide receiver Marlon Moore. Moore, an avid Call of Duty player, sees a path to financial viability for esports. “It’s a very, very competitive sport that is … up and coming,” Moore says. “So with this going on, (having) everybody (here) to play, especially in Sacramento, it’s going to help put us on the map for more than what we are.”
Hinkle says sponsors are allowing the tournament to give away close to $30,000 in cash prizes and scholarships. First place comes with a prize of $6,000 to $7,000, while other prizes include gaming chairs and Kings tickets.
Matt Haines, owner of Sacramento-based lifestyle brand Roc&Sol, lead sponsor for the tournament, finds esports promising. “It’s obviously the whole movement, everybody playing esports now,” Haines says. “The growth is mind-boggling.”
Longtime Sacramento businesswoman Margaret Wong, the founder of Golden California, is also one of the principals involved in the esports venture. Having helped bring NBA competition to China in the early 2000s, Wong has designs on making the tournament international and boosting Sacramento’s profile.
“I think that Sacramento can be … very high-tech,” Wong says. “That’s why you have the technology center building out, you have more of the Silicon Valley technology, AI; so I want this to be part of the AI mission.”
Other cities in the region are looking to make a splash with esports as well, such as Rancho Cordova, whose mayor, Garrett Gatewood, also attended the kickoff event. “My city is getting ready to build a major gaming mecca,” Gatewood says — though Rancho Cordova has not made any such plans public.
Whenever and however gaming meccas get built, proponents of esports know that it can bring crowds. “Just like anything, you put your mind into this tournament and you’re enthusiastic about it … you’re going to draw eyes,” Moore says.
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