On 3 June 2018 we saw the first Sunday of the Gfinity Elite Series in Australia. Broadcast on Twitch online and on the digital TV network One, the series is truly taking the world of eSports to Australia. Here’s what happened on the day.
Upon entering the Hoyts Gfinity eSports Arena, which is located inside the Hoyts in the Entertainment Quarter, we were immediately amazed at the scale and production value of the stage. The stage consisted of two levels: a lower level for the commentators, hosts and the large screens and a top level for the eSports competitors with three sets of stairs connecting the levels. In the middle was a tunnel-like runway where players strutted down and made their entrances. This stage set up, complete with LEDs and lighting, would be like something you’d see on The Voice and, apart from evoking a sense of competition, I think it helps mainstream audiences who are new to eSports to still feel a sense of familiarity.
The first game to kick off on Sunday was Rocket League. We spoke to Nathan “Shadey” Logan from Melbourne Order right after their 3-1 victory over Brisbane Deceptors. Like any athlete competing in a national competition, Shadey wasn’t one to rest on his laurels despite the win. “Even though we got the result, it wasn’t quite what we wanted,” he said. From here on, competition will only get fiercer so, as Shadey puts it, “we’re going to hit the drawing again this week and see if we can improve and come back next week and hopefully take the win again”. There’s no casual play here – teams are in it to win it and training hard.
After Rocket League, there was a three-hour break before Street Fighter V. Here we saw Melbourne Order lose to Brisbane Deceptors 2-4. Despite the loss, ROF from Melbourne Order stole the show with his cheeky smack talk and villain persona which he kept up from the moment he entered the arena. Donning a pair of menacingly opaque aviator sunglasses and an air of nonchalance, ROF coldly proclaimed “they’re just wasting their time; this is just going to be a stomp, so you may as well go take a nap or do something else”. Ouch. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because the matches were fiercely contested, and the Brisbane Deceptors came out on top. Still, it never deterred ROF from, as host Luke Joseph Ryan remarked, “staring into my [Luke’s] soul” during his hilarious interview. As the competition progresses, we hope to see more player personas emerge.
Sydney Roar and Sydney Chiefs were up next. The Chiefs put on a dominant display, winning 4-0. BKSAMA from Sydney Chiefs was calm and collected throughout his matches and was quite stoic about his wins. When asked, he was upfront about how to win in these competitions: there’s no time to be reserved and hold back, you need to be on the offensive. It was like advice given from a good winner without any gloating or taunts.
The last matchup was between Perth Ground Zero and Melbourne Avant Gaming. This matchup was the one with the most back and forth action, both in terms of gameplay and onstage banter. After the player entrances were made, Rupps from Perth Ground Zero didn’t bat an eyelid when delivering his firing salvo to Melbourne Avant Gaming, telling host Luke Joseph Ryan and the audience that “Our team, Ground Zero, have beaten Avant in both games previously, today and yesterday. And I speak for all of us when I say I’m going to crush them and make them regret coming down”. Oh boy. It was on. RumorsOfGhosts from Melbourne Avant Gaming didn’t seem phased at all and returned with disbelief, saying it will go the other way with this “going to be a sweep” for them. With the trash talk out of the way and the crowd amped up for the final showdown, both teams got down to business and we saw some of the closest rounds of Street Fighter V yet. Syo from Ground Zero pulled off convincing wins and got out of his seat to do theatrical bows each time much to the amusement and applause of the crowd. However, at the end of it all, Avant stole the victory winning 4-3.
The first week of the Gfinity Elite Series has certainly been exciting and we look forward to what’s ahead. If you’re not already following it, be sure to check out https://www.twitch.tv/gfinityau