The first weekend in September at Melbourne Park hosted the Melbourne Esports Open (MEO) which has been coined the “Australia’s Biggest celebration of esports”.
Over the two days a fantastic lineup of games and tournaments were available to participate in and spectate, as well as big stage demonstrations, with MEO hosting the League of Legends Oceanic Pro League finals, and the Overwatch Contenders Australia Season 2 Finals.
Rivalling IEM Sydney, the current major esports event in Australia, the Melbourne Esports Open was in my opinion, was a pretty fantastic event. I attended both days to check it out and talk to spectators to find out what they loved about watching competitive gaming.
While Overwatch and League of Legends were the real stars of the show, a number of smaller tournaments and opportunities for attendees to get involved were running across the weekend.
Fortnite was a pretty big hit among fans young and old, with multiple matches happening over the weekend, including a Fortnite Dance Off, that by all accounts was quite the spectacle.
On Sunday I was lucky enough to get a peek at the Overwatch and Super Smash Bros tournaments, which attendees could pre register to play in. I asked some players between matches how they felt about the event and what interested them in attending.
“Getting to play against real players is a massive thing. I’m a competitive person, I used to be a pro Starcraft player in Australia. So (Super Smash Bros ) Melee draws that and I came here to compete, and obviously if you want to get better you have to watch the best people.”
I also asked them about the direct appeal of participating in event such as the MEO.
“Playing (in tournaments) and seeing yourself get better, and getting slightly furter in the bracket each time, it’s kind of cathartic. It’s just a good feeling.”
Small crowds gathered around CRT screens to watch matches carry out between high ranking players, the shoutcasters for surrounding games were almost drowned out by the sound of ferociously clacking joysticks and buttons.
The Australian High School Esports League made an appearance too, with the best Victorian school teams competing in official League of Legends rounds. Pokemon video and card games were running over the weekend attracting young and old placers once again, and many supportive parents.
The attendee tournaments were pretty packed with supporters cheering on their friends and family.
In both the main arenas and the freeplay area there were a number of games available ranging from FPS, traditional fighting games even Minecraft.
In the Quake Champions booth I talked to Lily, who was watching the final round of a Quake game and had never seen or played it before and I asked her why she was watching a game she’d never had any interest in prior to coming here.
“I like watching competitiveness. I like seeing mechanical prowess in games that I know nothing about. It’s like a spectacle. It’s like two gods putting on a show for us mere mortals.”
The Overwatch and League of Legends main events were very exciting to see in person.
The crowd was packed and buzzing.
I've watched esports streams plenty of times before, but the live experience was something else entirely.
Jade, Tara, Ronald, Cameron and Rupert all gave me the same response when I asked why they were there; they came to support the Dire Wolves, one of the prominent teams participating.
I also asked them if they felt like these kinds of events help push esports into a higher state of recognition, and this is what they had to say.
“Definitely. The fact that we’re able to sell out big stadiums like Rod Laver arena (the location), its bringing it into a whole new light and more people are going to notice it.”
There were also a few bemused parents escorting their kids throughout the event.
Two dads in particular told me they had no personal interest in esports or videogames, but their kids loved Overwatch and were really excited to be there watching the live event and that it felt just like any other sports event.
They didn’t understand much of what was going on, but they were impressed by it nonetheless.
Everywhere I looked I saw excited faces, people cheering on their favourite team or just enjoying the show.
It was an incredible atmosphere and I can't wait for next year.