A divide has always existed within gaming, a historical canyon that has made it difficult to connect the medium with mainstream culture. That divide has since narrowed over the last few years, thanks to the growth of consoles, mobile gaming and a general shift in attitudes over time.
But the gap between casual and even hardcore gamers to the competitive community is still as large as ever, even with the popularity of games like DOTA 2 and League of Legends. One movement that has helped bring fans out of the woodwork, however, has been the BarCraft movement around the world.
Peter Du is a member of the Australian Pro League, which hosts BarCraft and MOBAR events in Sydney. I sat down with him to chat about how it all got started, what makes them so popular and how the growth of Barcraft/MOBAR has affected the image of gaming not only with gamers but with the wider community.
What was the original inspiration for the Australian Pro League to begin the event and who was involved in getting things off the ground?
Everyone at the Australian Pro League experienced the same feeling that I’m sure many eSports fans have; the feeling of “I wish I could be there”. Seeing all these large international events and their respective BarCraft events being advertised, we all had the desire to attend these awesome events, but being in Australia, that wasn’t that feasible. So we essentially became the solution to the problem many people faced: we wanted to bring those events to Australia and thus brought about our Sydney BarCraft chain of events and subsequently, Sydney MOBAR. There were two people responsible for getting Sydney BarCraft running; our CEO, Eugene Mak and the founder of Sydney BarCraft, Brian Ng. Without them, we wouldn’t have such awesome events in Australia.
Is there any fundamental difference between the crowds that attend a BarCraft and a MOBAR? How has the reception for MOBAR been, what were the initial numbers and what expectations do you have for future MOBARs?
Despite what most people may believe, there are very little differences between a BarCraft crowd and a MOBAR crowd. Whilst the crowd themselves may be different people, they both have the same level of energy and both love their game just as much as the other. Our first Sydney MOBAR was a huge success, attracting approximately 350 patrons, similar to the numbers we see for our Sydney BarCraft events. Going into the future, we will definitely keep working to improve our MOBAR chain of events and we expect to see bigger and better things moving forward.
Do the crowds at a MOBAR and BarCraft tend to mix or do they remain separate (fans of Barcraft don’t attend MOBAR events and vice-versa) ?
For the most part, there is a large portion of the crowd that attend both MOBAR and BarCraft events, but of course there will always be a group of people who just aren’t interested in the other title, which is perfectly valid. You may see them trial the other event once or twice to get a feel for it, and while you may get some people getting hooked, others will chose to stick to their one title.
How has your relationship with the Paragon Hotel management developed since you began running the BarCraft events? What was their initial expectations and concerns with bringing gaming into the venue, and how do they look at them now?
When we initially approached the Paragon Hotel with the concept of hosting a BarCraft, as you’d expect, they were a bit sceptical, but nevertheless their General Manager, Craig Wesker was more than willing to trial the idea. With the success of Sydney BarCraft #1, any remaining scepticism was put to rest for not only the Paragon Hotel, but also for us. Since then, our relationship with the Paragon Hotel and its chain has been a highly positive one; they have always been very accommodating to us and it’s always a pleasure to work with them. We have also found that the Paragon Hotel and its staff have come to embrace the games as well, as they become immersed in the event’s atmosphere.
How many people, and how much time, are required to help make the event a success? What kind of preparation happens on the Paragon Hotel’s end? Are extra staff rostered on specifically for a BarCraft?
The Australian Pro League staff is comprised of 8 members and in order for an event to be successful, all 8 of us have our own respective jobs to do. While planning the event itself may only take a day or two at most, we’re constantly working on trying to improve the event as a whole. In regards to the Paragon Hotel, if we expect a big turnout, generally they will almost double their staff numbers to help with the large number of customers. Apart from that, we work closely with the Paragon leading up to the event to ensure that all the technical equipment is in order and that seating arrangements are the most optimal that they can be.
How important are the quality of the games at the BarCraft itself towards making it a great event?
We can do everything in our power to make the event as amazing as we can, but at the end of the day, the games being shown is what everyone is there for. As we’ve seen in the past, if the games aren’t exciting enough, people will lose interest quite quickly which puts a dampener on the atmosphere. So all we can do is hope that each set of matches are amazing, and so far, they have been.
What kind of events work best in the downtime between matches? Do traditional pub events such as trivia and live music work well in a BarCraft?
Due to the intermissions being quite short for most tournaments, we typically find ourselves only having enough time to do a quiet prize give-away between each match. But provided the intermission is long enough, there are a large number of different things that would work; a trivia event tailored to the game would be one such example. Your creativity would be the only real restriction other than time.
What kind of response have the Sydney BarCraft events had internationally? Do you get much support from major sponsors?
As a chain of events as a whole, we aren’t all that internationally recognised, despite being the second largest BarCraft in the world. This simply comes down to the fact that the exceeding majority of BarCraft events are held in North America and Europe, which typical don’t pay much attention to the Australian StarCraft scene to begin with. Our sponsors have played a huge part in making Sydney BarCraft what it is today; they’ve provided us with products to reward the people who come out and support our events and they’ve helped put our name out there.
Has the success of the BarCraft events at the Paragon Hotel led to other venues contacting you to organise similar events? Have you looked at broadening BarCraft beyond the Paragon?
Whilst we haven’t received any form of contact from other venues, we have received messages from other organisations/people to host events for different tournaments and titles. As far as broadening our events beyond the Paragon, we don’t see this happening in the near future. Not only because the Paragon was the first venue to believe in our eSports venture and we want to support them for supporting us, but because the Paragon has other bars in its chain (such as the Ship Inn and the Republic Hotel) which have also accommodated us in the past. Most other venues cannot offer us this form of “fallback” in case their venue is already booked out on the day of an event. Working with the Paragon Hotel has been nothing short of amazing and we want to be able to continue working with them into the future.
What effect, if any, do you think events like BarCraft have had on gaming?
Although BarCraft hasn’t had any large immediate impacts on gaming, it subtly helps target core problems for gamers. BarCraft is a way of showing the public that your typical gamer isn’t someone who dwells at home all day and is anti-society, but rather, show gamers love to come out to events like these and socialise with other people. It also serves as a demonstration to people saying “This is why we love what we love” and this effect is clear when you have members of the general public, who stumble into our event unknowingly, end up getting caught up in the hype and staying for the remainder of the event.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to take gaming to a more casual venue like a pub or an RSL?
My advice to them would be, go prepared and believe in your venture. If you don’t think it will be successful, they won’t be willing to jump on board with you either. Also, with all technology related events, make sure you know what you require the venue to have, it help cuts down on a lot of confusion later on. While some may perceive gaming to be a poor business choice for them, presented in the right way, it can become a very attractive pitch to them.
Finally, why run a Barcraft? What makes it worth all the time and effort for you?
Ultimately, it comes down to our passion for the game. We love the game, we love the community, we love everything about it. To be able to create something that brings together other people who share the same passion as us and gives us a chance to celebrate that passion together, it makes everything worth it in the end. No matter how much effort it takes to put together, to see and hear people enjoying the event and saying they want more, it just drives you to keep the ball rolling. And with the amount of feedback we receive event after event, you can definitely expect more events to be coming out from us!