When I think back to this time last year I remember a time of uncertainty, excitement and a thrill of what was to come. South African Esports was on the rise. I’d come off hosting two incredible landmark events, one alongside the amazing Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner and the other a 6 figure tournament for local CSGO, hosted by Mettlestate. There was talk of bigger things, rumblings of giant tournaments and shouts of international buy in.
RUSH was the turning point, for me anyway.
From the same team that brings you rAge every year, RUSH was introduced as an esports focused event in Johannesburg. The idea was to highlight the best SA Esports talent on offer as well as showcase esports to a new audience. If you had no idea what esports was, this was a place to learn. For its first year I think RUSH did really well. It wasn’t without hiccups BUT the strong take away for me was in where the crowds pooled. Those that came to check out the spectacle seemed to gravitate towards the FIFA stage and the Hearthstone fire side gathering. Both spots allowing them to get hands on, play and compete. I also noticed a large interest in the racing sim set up by one of the retailers who were exhibiting. I suppose it was at that moment that I started to “think bigger”. My first love had always been CSGO and I’d focused so much of my energy into the single title, but RUSH made me realise how the local community had a host of titles and competitive players. Each of these games had their own unique fan base and ultimately by highlighting them all, an event like RUSH helped create an inclusive esports environment that we could all get behind.
Fast forward a year
I’ve now hosted a few tournaments in Europe and Asia. I’ve held my own on stages for games like Dragon Ball FighterZ, CrossFire (both PC and mobile), Overwatch and even CSGO. I’m realising as I go that I love the competitive nature of esports but that I also love how that competition translates across the titles. We have a vibrant community of competitive gamers in South Africa and I have noticed that those competing in esports do sometimes support and watch the other local titles where they can, which helps build our little scene. The last year has seen some incredible ups and downs in SA Esports. We’ve seen giant tournaments, giant mistakes and giant dodgy dealings behind the scenes. But we’ve also seen this giant shift. What was a space dominated by CS and Dota is now a space with a host of new titles emerging, new communities making a noise and new players being discovered.
As we go we find new stories to tell
This is the tough part for our local scene. We’ve made mistakes and now we need to learn. To do that we need to be brave and attempt new things, because this is how we learn and grow. Which is why I’m excited about the announcement around RUSH this year. Vodacom 4U has stepped up as the headline sponsor. RUSH will be at a new venue, the Sun Arena at Time Square in Pretoria. I think it is great that we’re branching out of northern Joburg. The event will take place from 29 June to 1 July. My beloved CSGO will feature in the form of the Vodacom 4U CSGO Cup, there will be FIFA competitions and few other titles in the mix as well.
My personal favourite though?
RUSH is implementing a Fortnite 1 vs 1 tournament on mobile! And before the hardcore esports fans rumble and grumble: Yes, there isn’t access to servers. Yes, it is on mobile. Yes, currently Fortnite is only available on iOS (but Epic Games has said they’ll be coming to Android in the next few months). Yes, it seems risky. BUT, let me turn this on its head for a minute for you. There are a large group of young gamers who are Fortnite obsessed. This is the perfect opportunity for us to introduce a group of them to the competitive gaming world and, who knows, convince a few of them to jump on the esports train with us.
The tournament is going to be run by ACGL, who I believe are the best folks to experiment with this and do a great job. We’ve seen them do it before. Obviously with the restrictions on Fortnite servers the format might be questioned. It’s 1 v 1, so you jump in, play and the highest finisher between the two progresses. It’s an entry level tournament and there may be questions around level of competition in games etc. But, I’ve seen very similar formats used in big titles at Gamescom and it worked well as an entry level tournament format.
Players register on the ACGL website or at the event to play on Friday or Saturday, they jump in to a game they’re used to without the additional pressure of feeling like everyone around them is in the same game. They just do their thing and hope to claim those high finishes. It is far easier for you and I to watch their progress and get behind someone who is popping off each game. You can follow your favourite throughout the few days. The winner needs to perform well consistently against a range of opponents. Registrations are open to anyone 12 years and older (as per the game’s restrictions). For me, the format ties in with the age group. Parents can come with their kids and actually watch as well understand what they’re seeing. Hopefully opening their eyes to why esports shouldn’t be discouraged.
I also think doing this on mobile in clever. So many South African kids have smartphones but not many have access to PCs and consoles. So its a nice way to include a more diverse group of competitive players. I’m keen to see how this one plays out.
Tickets will be available tomorrow on Computicket, R60 for one day but R100 to get a pass for all three days. If you have any questions about the games and competitions drop them in the comments below and I’ll see if I can help you out!