Esports have rapidly been gaining popularity recently and have been making a name for themselves across the gaming community. However, despite this spike in popularity, they have yet to be taken seriously or started building a community, bringing like-minded people together. An organisation called Varsity Games is the first to aim at rectifying this injustice and it’s began with an all-out DOTA 2 tournament which took place last Saturday on the 26th of November. The tournament took place at the Gfinity Arena in Fulham Broadway with teams from the four major universities of London, King’s College London (KCL), LSE, UCL and even one from Imperial. There was to be two major games between two teams, with a best-two-out-of-three competition in each game, each competing for honour and glory. The winners of the games would then proceed to the finals for a game that would decide the winner of the Varsity Games London Trophy.

When I arrived at the venue, I was immediately struck by the professionalism and skill involved in the setup. For those of you who don’t know, the Gfnity arena is located at Vue Fulham Broadway. The game was live-streamed onto the big screen and the audience watched from the comfort of cinema seats we all know and love. The teams playing had their own booths right in front of the screens with some of the best computer setups I’ve seen and technicians on hand to fix any technical issues. Everyone was presented with video interviews of all the teams, with the members sharing stories from their early gaming days and their teams’ journey working together. The tournament got into full swing with the first game between UCL and KCL. The two teams both selected their characters and the countdown began to the first game. Once it began, there was a frenzy of spells, deaths and characters dodging and attacking wherever possible. There was also live commentary, which only added to the excitement and got everyone hyped. Even I was enjoying myself, in spite of never having played or watched a game of DOTA in my life. The two teams were pretty evenly-matched and that led to some intense and exciting viewing. Both teams won one each before KCL ultimately managed to dominate the final match and proceed to the finals.

Inbetween matches, there were interviews and talks to tone things down. One highlight talk was on ‘Esports and Competitive gaming in the UK: A Summary and Future Possibilities’. It was basically about how e-sports is still a relatively new ‘thing’ and how people don’t really treat competitive gaming in the same way as conventional sports. Varsity Games restated their aims on how they want things to change and help gaming become serious. Plus we got treated to a free drink AND a hot dog! #Profit.

The next game was between Imperial College and LSE. Imperial fought bravely but ultimately they lost two matches and were unable to progress to the finals (Never mind lads! You’ll do better next time). That meant the final was to be between KCL and LSE but before the match could start, there was a delay due to technical difficulties. This was blamed on DOTA needing an update that was expected to come in the next couple of weeks. There was just was enough time for me to drop out, queue for food, leave because it would take too long, and arrive for the start of the first match.

As the final began, KCL were able to dominate the first match. For the second match, LSE tried a tactic that took the entire room by surprise but that ultimately paid off, helping them win the second match. Finally the last match of the day was underway, to decide the winner of the tournament. Both teams started off on equal footing, but slowly LSE were able to take the lead and gain the upper hand, winning the final match, and in turn, the tournament. The LSE team members rushed on stage, beaming triumphantly. The team raised the trophy in unison, thus capping the first Varsity Games tournament. After a final round of interviews, and a round of applause for the organising team and the Gfinity crew, the event was officially over and everyone dispersed.

All in all, the event was successful and well executed: definitely worth spending my entire Saturday on. Varsity Games plan to expand and have more events, with a larger variety of games. With regards to promoting esports, the organising team definitely did a good job and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next one.