Splatoon isn’t your conventional esports title.
The four-against-four third person shooter doesn’t strike people as the most competitive game out there. After all, its cartoonish nature and platform – with the game only available on the Nintendo Switch – doesn’t make it easily accessible to your typical diehard esports fan.
But that’s what makes Splatoon so special. It goes against the grain, the norm of every esports concept you’d have in 2019, and provides an amazingly unique gameplay experience within the tactical shooter genre, and an entirely different community.
One thing it lacks though is international competition. Outside of the World Championships, very rarely do players get the chance to intersect with their rivals and their idols in a competitive setting. However, that’s all set to change this weekend with Firetail’s Invasion.
A major collaborative effort in Australian Splatoon, Firetail have assembled some of North America’s greatest talent, and Australia’s rising stars, to help build a larger community down under.
The eight-team invitational features players like “Latias,” Australia’s most decorated Splatoon player of all time, alongside North American talent like “Nine,” a popular content creator and commentator for the Splatoon World Championships.
Latias, who has been to the World Championships twice, said that Australia still suffers from geographical isolation from the rest of the world in Splatoon.
“Nobody from the rest of the Splatoon competitive community really knows us, and it’s quite sad and frustrating when there’s so many talented people in this country who don’t get the chance to shine,” she said.
With isolation comes a weird sense of belonging. It’s not the feeling of being a part of something bigger, but rather just being a part of your own special something. For Nine, that’s something he’s noticed from the outside looking in.
“From my observations, being isolated has created a sense of togetherness and community that the bigger scenes don’t always have, and the genuine excitement AU approaches the game with is infectious,” he said.
What the Firetail event is bringing though is attention, both from overseas and locally. Splatoon fans might have a favourite streamer to watch, but not understand that there’s a local scene booming with equally talented players to watch. Bringing the two together will only make people more aware of how far and wide the scene runs.
“Being given the opportunity to play with big streamers and competitive players from the NA scene would definitely help shed light on those in Australia who get overlooked and don’t get many opportunities to be noticed otherwise,” she said.
Events like Firetail’s Invasion brings relevance to the game’s scene in Australia in a wider scope, not just who makes it to Worlds. It opens the door to more event invites, which means more chances for players to compete on the international stage.
Most of all though, it’s building a bridge between scenes that has never been built before.
“No other shooter game crosses regions and remains playable like Splatoon does,” said Aaron “RamboAz” Dark, co-founder of Firetail. “This tournament isn’t the end goal, but a chance to build a bridge between OCE and NA.”
“People may only ever see the Australian team at Worlds each year and then forget we exist for the rest of the year,” added partner-in-crime Liam “Checkers” Kubicek “If they can play with some of these captains they can definitely compete with NA teams on a more regular basis.”
The Invasion is a culmination of hard work for the two tournament organisers, who have also casted community events in the scene for the last two years.
“The opportunity to make OCE closer to NA while entertaining everyone in the process was one that we couldn’t miss,” said RamboAz. “We need that exposure to keep growing out the OCE community.”
One thing Splatoon’s esports scene has that others don’t is gender diversity. Five players selected for the invitational are female, including Eels captain “Miss Click,” and Australia’s scene across the board has a much more diverse split of players compared to mainstay titles.
“It’s a much more welcoming environment for people,” said Latias. “I’ve never felt threatened because I’m a girl here, unlike other games, where people would put me down whenever they heard a girl in voice chat. Whatever the reason behind Splatoon’s diversity, I very much appreciate it.”
On top of that, Australia has been represented at E3 by four different females over the last three years. Latias is one of the only players across all regions to attend the major tournament twice, and it’s brought some memorable experiences along with it.
“After winning the AUNZ Cup in 2018 with my pickup team, and going over to compete in the World Inkling Invitational – that was a special experience,” she said. “Whilst we didn’t win, we still had a lot of fun and showed we could play well on the world stage.”
Being able to bring together amazing talent, without the stereotypes other games perpetuate, has turned Splatoon esports into a welcoming, inclusive community.
“Many of the competitors are young, and have grown up in a different era of gaming than the almost male-exclusive time before it,” said Nine. “I’ve seen with my own eyes how valued of an aspect our diversity is and the work that’s done to honor that.”
The Firetail Invasion is the start of a link to unite players from all different backgrounds under their one common love – Splatoon. It gives a chance for Australia’s best players to learn from the best and improve, all while getting the attention the scene so desperately deserves.
“We don’t get to play [NA] often,” said RamboAz. “By providing this exhibition tournament, it gets people excited about the prospect of playing internationally, and meeting their Splatoon heroes in a fun setting.”
The Firetail Invasion Invitational starts at 11am AEDT on Sunday, November 3. You can find out more information on the Firetail Events Twitter.
You can also follow Latias on Twitter.