Easy to see appeal of eSports at convention

As someone with a deep, abiding love of video games, I’ve never been particularly drawn to the highly competitive, rapidly growing eSports side of it. I’m just not skilled enough at any one game or competitive enough in my nature to be a part of that.

eSports has become a sort of catchall term for playing video games at a competitive level, usually for money. It’s existed for decades as a concept, but that specific term has become standard recently.

Whether it’s old favorites like “Street Fighter” or newer crazes like “League of Legends” (in which two teams of five attempt to destroy each other’s bases on opposite sides of a symmetrical map), these competitions draw huge crowds and impressive payouts to the champions.

Heck, even ESPN formed a full-time eSports coverage team last month. They televised a “League” tournament last year, much to the delight of fans and the chagrin of some regular viewers, whom I guess prefer to see a rotating cast of men in suits yell about Cam Newton.

I decided to see what it’s all about on the local level by going to the Wichita eSports Convention, which was held at the Rhatigan Student Center during the weekend. It featured three days of tournaments, meet-and-greets with various geek culture personalities and people selling their wares.

Right out the gate, I genuinely enjoyed talking to the people running booths to promote their work. The benefit of gathering like-minded individuals in one place is being able to joke around with total strangers as long as you both share knowledge and enthusiasm for the same kinds of activities.

One guy was selling prints of his excellent illustrations of various video game characters, my favorite being Mordin from “Mass Effect,” which I could have sworn came from the game’s original artists. We spoke for a bit about his work, including some honest admissions from him that he wasn’t happy with some of it.

Another group was promoting their YouTube channel (EVO Genius Gaming, if you’re wondering) by wisely providing a couple of retro game consoles and plenty of games for anyone to come play. I’m always happy to play “Super Mario Bros. 3” any time.

My original plan for this piece was to join that day’s “Super Smash Bros.” tournament, lose horribly and write about it. Once I saw the level of competition, I realized that would have been about as fun as a high school football team joining the NFL.

The tournament’s atmosphere was my favorite part, as the competitors were excited and friendly with each other while spectators armchair-quarterbacked with their commentary. From what I saw, it was a positive space where I was even able to learn some strategies from people who are much, much better at video games than I am.

The Wichita eSports Convention obviously will hold nothing for people with no interest in games, but I came away impressed. If you like games at all, there is something for you, even if you’re not super interested in the eSports side of it.