The largest games convention in the Caribbean, Games Con, was recently held with a massive turnout from gaming enthusiasts out to win cash and other prizes.
Hosted by the e-Sports Caribbean League (ESCL) at Naparima College, the event had a variety of entertainment including video game tournaments, comics and manga, and cosplay competitions.
Now in its third year, Games Con allows players to showcase their skill and creativity in a number of games such as Street Fighter 5, Mortal Kombat XL, FIFA, Pokemon, and DOTA, with cash prizes ranging from $ 1,500 to $ 5,500.
Kevin Lee-A-Ping, CEO of ESCL, sat down with Loop in the midst of the rush and feverish activity at Games Con, where he shared more insight into the gaming community in Trinidad and Tobago.
He clarified that it’s more than just gaming but should actually be referred to as eSports, adding that it’s internationally recognized as video game tournaments at a competitive level. While technically classified as a non-traditional sport, it has still been accepted as something that takes just as much training and concentration and skill as any other sport.
“What many don’t know is that there are millions of dollars in cash and prizes being given out at these [international] tournaments,” said Lee-A-Ping.
He indicated that there were a few Trinidadians who’ve turned pro and have gone on to not only compete but win international tournaments.
“Bevon Julien went to compete in the Latin American FIFA Cup, and went on to place first in the Latin American region. He’s the best we have in Trinidad and Tobago as well as the wider region. We’ve also had Darien Jardine who went to Brazil with me to compete in the first ever E-Games, which is the Olympics of eSports, and he placed 5th overall.”
He cited another player who went to study in the U.K., was scouted for a pro team, where they placed first in a tournament.
While there are a number of local players making names for themselves on a global scale, there has been a notable absence of mainstream support here at home.
“There has been a lack of support…lack of corporate buy-in; many don’t understand the returns and value that eSports can bring. A part of it is due to a generational gap. When you go abroad, the brand recognition you get is so big,” he said. “Coca-Cola and Monster are just some of the major partners. Monster, however, doesn’t sponsor locally. They’ve given us some donations and cases of Monster but it hasn’t gotten to the point of official partnership.”
Before buy-in, there needs to be understanding of how eSports can be as intense and competitive as any other sport.
“Being able to get players ready requires training. Most athletes train for about five hours per day, whereas eSport players train for 10. Some people might say that they’re wasting time but this is how players live, this is how they make their money.
And money they do make. Winning teams can sometimes take home on average US$ 1 million in cash prizes. Although that may be split between a five-man team, one-fifth of a million (US$ 200,000) is still a lot of money.
“That’s mainly what I think we’re lacking right now, is the corporate buy-in as well as buy-in to sponsor players to travel to international tournaments.”
While things may slow in coming, there is progress.
“I have an investor who can put cash to buy more assets and equipment, so I’d be able to host tournaments more frequently and try to encourage new players to come in, build up their expertise to get to pro-player level in Trinidad and Tobago. Then we can start having bigger tournaments with international players.”
With e-Sports quickly becoming as large an industry as the traditional sporting industry, with even more growth expected over the next five to 10 years, it is hoped that the relevant stakeholders quickly see the viability of the industry and invest.
The complete list of winners from this year’s tournament are below:
1st Bevon Julien
2nd Adrian Mohammed
3rd Christopher Buffong
1st Collin Kisson
2nd Kyle Strachan
3rd Keden Thompson
Super Smash Brothers
1st James Miller (UK)
2nd Rich King (USA)
3rd Darien Jardine (T&T)
1st Kirby Pierre
2nd Avinash Nagassar
3rd Akil Williams
1st James Miller (UK)
2nd Gerald Bocage
3rd Imran Mustapha
Naruto Storm 4
1st Andrew Khan
2nd Dominic Guevara
3rd Jerome Barcley
1st Nuclear Launch Detected
2nd For Skia
3rd No Chill