With the SMITE World Championships just around the corner (Jan 7 – 10, 2016) several member of the Gamer Launch family are gearing up to attend the event. For some of us this is an annual event, while others will be making the trip to watch their favorite teams play for the first time. This got us thinking about all of you who might be attending your first live esports event in the coming year and what we can tell you to make the trip as stress-free and fun as possible. So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled this guide to surviving your first ever esports event.
Like A Convention… But Not.
Esports events can be pretty convention-like. However, unlike most conventions, these have a very specific focus. Granted, there will be other things for you to do. For instance, this year’s SWC is also playing host to the Hi-Rez Expo, where you can test some of Hi-Rez’s newer games, hear announcements and even have a chance to meet some of the developers and casters on the SMITE team.
When planning a trip to an event like this, you’ll want to do some research ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss out on anything you’d really like to see. One of the things to keep in mind here is that unlike a regular convention, the schedule at esports events revolves around the tournament rather than the tournament being supplemental to everything else. This means that if you do want to check out some of these other things, you’ll likely have to miss some of the games. Check that schedule and make sure you’re not going to miss the teams you really want to see in action.
Getting There / Getting Around
This is a biggie if you’re coming from out of town. Of course, you probably have the getting to the town part handled. But what about after?
Again, this takes a little bit of research ahead of time. Depending on the city you’re going to, you’ll have different options for getting to the venue after coming into town… especially after flying in. In the case of the SWC, the venue (and associated hotel) is north of Atlanta while the airport is south of the city. While the trip isn’t very long, you’ll find your options for getting around change as you move across the city.
The best thing you can do before leaving on your trip is to hit up Google maps and get a good idea of where things are at and what modes of transportation can be used to get there. If you are lucky enough to stay at the hotel the event suggests, you may not have to worry much about getting back and forth to the event, as some offer shuttles that run between the two.
Keep this in mind for anything else you’d like to do as well. Most of these events take place in cities that have a lot of other cool things to do; museums, theaters, concerts, fancy eats, etc. If you’re attending one of these events as your vacation, you might as well make the most out of being there. So keep that in mind when mapping out the area.
Know What your Hotel Offers
Different hotels are going to offer different features; some will come free with the room, others will not. Know what your hotel offers in your package. The LAST thing you want to do after leaving one of these events is to find out that you’ve spent an extra few hundred on something you thought was free.
Figure Out Your Food Situation
Chances are, if you’re staying at the hotel suggested by the event organizers, you’re going to have plenty of access to food. There’ll be restaurants and possibly a buffet available, as well as room service. The Renaissance Hotel used as the primary hotel for the SMITE World Championship has all of these and a Starbucks with some really nice people working there.
In most cases, the event venue will offer a concession to grab quick eats at — or local food trucks.
But as with most places like this, you can end up with one heck of a bill after opting for these every day. So, once again, break out Google Maps and figure out where some more cost effective places to eat are.
What To Bring
For a good portion of the event, you’re going to be sitting in a tightly packed space with other people, so plan accordingly. You’re not going to want to be lugging around a lot of stuff and trying to figure out where to put it all when there are people sitting a few inches to each side of you. That said, you are going to want to keep a few necessities on you.
Water: You’re going to be in a tightly packed room with a lot of people producing body heat. You’ll have a few options depending on the venue you’re at, but keeping a bottle of water on your person is a good idea. When possible, I take a sports bottle with a water filter with me and just fill it at fountains or sinks available at the venue. It saves on money.
Hand Sanitizer: While you may not be a germophobe or a typical user of hand sanitizer, keep in mind you’re going to be at an event with a lot of people from different places. That leaves a lot of room for catching the dreaded con-crud. So, in this case, we recommend you keep a small bottle with you.
Throat lozenges: You’re going to a competitive event that lasts several days. You will be yelling and screaming. You will run the risk of losing your voice — or at least giving yourself one heck of a sore throat in the process. Take some lozenges along to help with that — and maybe consider drinking some hot tea whenever you get back to your hotel room.
Phone, Charger and Extra Battery: The worst thing that can happen at one of these events is to lose track of your friends and spend forever looking for them. Obviously, keeping your phone charged and ready to go will be a big help. Plus, you’re probably going to want to get plenty of pictures anyway.
A Small Backpack, Sack, Something to Carry Goodies In: You know you’re probably going to spend at least a little money getting a souvenir while you’re at the event. There are typically also a variety of giveaways and free goodies to be had. So, while you shouldn’t bring a duffle bag, having something to carry a few things in is a good idea.
Any Medical Info: Chances are, you’re not going to need to use this. But just in case something does happen and you need medical help; help them help you. If you have any allergies or other conditions a doctor might need to know about, keep them on your person.
Once You’re There
Once you’re there, you’re going to want to take note of a few things. Depending on the event and your accommodations, different services will be available to you that you might want to take advantage of. You’ll also want to do certain things to help keep your trip safe and fun.
Check-In At The Hotel
If you’re staying at the event’s main hotel, there’s a chance the organizers may have set up a way for you to check in and get your badge and swag there, eliminating you having to go through the red tape the day of. You can also check with the concierge at the hotel and get information on the surrounding area, what you need to do to have internet in your room and the shuttle to the event (if one is offered).
Know Your Schedule
When you get your pass, the event organizers will most likely give you a printed version of the event schedule. Keep it on you (or keep one on your phone). Take note of how long it will take you to get from place to place so you don’t miss the teams you want to see or any panels or other things you’d like to attend.
Keep in mind that there will be a lot of people wanting to be at the same place at the same time as you, and plan accordingly.
If the event offers shuttle services, take a picture of the schedule for that as well. That way you’ll always be on time.
Take Note Of Event Organizers And Security People
Chances are, you’re not going to need these people. But if something does happen that requires their assistance, knowing who to look for and where to find them will come in handy. Be aware that while the developers and casters will be on site, they’re going to be the last people you want to call on if you need assistance right away.
Plan A Meeting Place
Chances are pretty good that if you’re snapping a lot of pictures, taking video and texting, your phone battery may not last. So, just in case something happens with your phone, set a place for you and your friends to meet at the end of the day, or for things like lunch.
You Don’t Have To Stay Tied To Your Chair
If you’re worried that getting up and leaving the audience for a bit means you’re going to miss out on everything. Don’t worry. You won’t. The event organizers at most of these things have that covered and have set up displays throughout the venue that you will be able to watch the action from. So if you need to get up and stretch your legs — and you should every so often — you’ll be okay.
Do keep in mind however, that your ticket doesn’t necessarily buy you a specific seat, so if you do leave the tournament area, you may come back to find someone else has taken your place.
One thing to keep in mind at these events is that in order for everyone to have a good time we have to be courteous to one another.
If You Get There Early, You Will Have To Wait
It’s great if you want to get to the venue early so you can get that sweet seat, but don’t be impatient with the staff if they elect to open on time. Just grab your spot in line and chill for a while. You’ll still get inside in plenty of time to get a good seat and see the show.
Don’t Lug Around A Lot of Unnecessary Stuff
Remember, you’re going to be in a space filled with a lot of other people. Carrying around a bunch of stuff you don’t need means you’re going to be bumping into people with it, dropping it and potentially losing it. Keep it down to what you need.
Take The Phone Calls Outside
Look, you’re going to be in a loud space already and chances are you’re not going to even be able to hear a phone call if you’re inside. So rather than making everyone else listen to you yell, go outside. You’ll be able to hear and the rest of the attendees won’t have to hear your conversation.
Be Aware Of Personal Space (No Touching Without Permission)
Like most geek events these days, esports events plays hosts to cosplayers — professional and amature. You’ll also come across the players, developers and casters walking around the area.
With most events you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet these people and take pictures them. Just be aware of what’s going on. Make sure they’re not busy before you approach them. Ask before taking pictures and don’t touch them without their permission.
When The Event Is Over
Really, the only thing you need to know here is whatever you have to get packed. Do it the night before you leave your hotel. You do NOT want to be trying to get everything together the morning of. Trust me. You’d rather sleep.
So, make sure everything is packed and the things you’ll need to get back home — tickets, etc. — are in a place where you can grab them fast.
And there you have it. Everything you need to know about surviving your first esports event. I can tell you from experience that it’s almost impossible to not have a great time at one of these things. The atmosphere is amazing, the people are super nice and there’s just a lot of fun to be had.
You will be exhausted when it’s all over… But it’s totally worth it.