On the eve of the first Rocket League Championship Series event of the new 2021-2022 season, Ground Zero Gaming and their founder Beau Melia were inspiring the next generation of Rocket League stars.
In a shopping centre in Perth’s far-southern suburbs, Ground Zero’s latest school holiday activation was capturing the hearts and minds of thousands, most of them families.
The organisation is of course no stranger to bringing the best of esports to the retail hubs across Perth, after finding themselves front-and-centre of the relaunched Forrest Chase in the heart of the CBD for the Forrest LIVE program in 2019.
Seeing over five thousand people through their stalls demoing Rocket League on the Nintendo Switch, along with the exciting Rocket League Hot Wheels tabletop game, has Ground Zero justifiably thrilled about the future of one of esports’ most accessible titles.
It’s this accessibility that acts as the perfect gateway for parents and families to see the role that esports can play in developing not just the physical skills that gaming provides for — skills like spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination, among many more — but the social aspect of gaming as well.
Ground Zero also had members from their content creation team on hand acting as star attractions—perhaps none more so than decorated international cricket star and Perth local Jhye Richardson, who joined Ground Zero back in March.
Jhye was able to demonstrate first-hand the parallels of competition across competitive gaming and elite sport, showcasing some silky footballing skills, and espousing the grassroots virtues of the event, thus connecting kids with their gaming communities.
The connectivity of grassroots esports and its social aspect starts in the home for Jhye, as it does for many of our esports legends. On his “athlete” competitiveness crossing over from his cricket to his gaming, Jhye said:
“Definitely. The ‘athlete mindset’ comes in a little bit from time to time, especially with my housemate at home. We sit next to each other and get really involved. We try to do everything we can to win every single game at home.”
Ground Zero has a highly successful Rocket League esports team of their own, one seemingly perpetually locked into a battle for top of Oceania with Renegades’ equally stacked line-up. The GZ team has not just a colleague, but a fan in the Australian fast bowler.
“Yeah, I definitely keep an eye on the GZ teams, especially the RL boys,” Jhye said. “I love watching them play, and they’re a great bunch of blokes so I love having a chat with them [as well].”
The chance to see the numerous opportunities that exist for everyone within gaming is a key focus of the event. The social and community aspect of these events, the role that esports can play in the future of a community, and what it means for esports’ domestic future is what excites Jhye the most about his partnership with Ground Zero.
“I think it just brings people closer together. Even just being here at the Mandurah Forum for the last couple of hours, the kids want to get down here, want to get involved and want to be competitive and they’re enjoying it.
“I’ve always said we’re one generation away. Parents are starting to gain an understanding of esports and gaming so hopefully we’re not too far away from everyone else.”
It was not hard to be equally excited when I look around and see kids literally a third of my age gaming face-to-face with their friends. It was not hard to see friends and families around big-screens with a switch and in those faces see tomorrow’s front-row viewers at an LCO final or DreamHack playoffs at LAN.
Or it will be us — today’s esports fans and pundits — who are the front-row viewers for tomorrow’s Torsos, Amphis and Express. The thought of an event like this being the dawning of the superstars that we get excited to watch at LAN is a giddy thought. It’s the creation of a new esports dream that we all one day wish we get to see someone make true, and I can’t wait to watch their career unfold.
In the meantime, Rocket League fans still have plenty of action from today’s stars to fill their excitement.
But, they’ll have to wait a little longer to see Ground Zero, Renegades, and the rest of the Rocket League Oceania scene in action. The third Regional event of RLCS 2021-22 Fall kicks off on November 12.