A busy Saturday evening falls upon Fortress Melbourne. It’s packed to the rafters in the Tavern, but for the first time in a long while, the noise in the LAN Lounge is matching that of the bar & dining area next door.
Inquisitive patrons duck in, intrigued, and are met with a sight not seen in over 24 months.
Handshakes, fist bumps and plenty of back-and-forth banter in the middle of a Counter-Strike match — it’s a glorious sight that invokes a long line of questioning from the unassuming patron.
And at once, they’re bombarded with responses from attendees eager to introduce to them the weird and wonderful world that is competitive gaming.
Half an hour later, the patron remains, cheering on one of the underdogs and gobsmacked by the concept of filled stadiums and multi-million dollar tournaments.
This is live grassroots esports, and to say it has been sorely missed over the course of the COVID pandemic would be a gross understatement.
But finally after almost a year of development, the brainchild of Esports Ops’ Andrew “Wander” Caughey, with support & backing from Rivalry, has been realised in full.
Sixteen teams descended upon Melbourne for the two day event, featuring players of all skill levels; from teams formed with friends travelling interstate, right through to full-time squads scrimming and preparing for a busy season ahead.
After a few technical hiccups to begin the opening day, four teams emerged late Saturday night after a gruelling round robin group stage and quarter-final series.
In the end it was ‘p0UND toWN’ — three members of OCE top four side Vertex plus the very capable hands of Liam “malta” Schembri & Will “yourwombat” Allchin — who would emerge victorious over Overt in a tense grand final 2-0 (16-12, 16-14).
But while the competitive stakes were high and the prize pool substantial, in the end it always has been, and always will be, about community.
“Honestly, it’s so good to be back,” surmised commentator Dion “Komodo” Pirotta.
“To be able to see everybody after so long has been amazing. It’s a really invigorating atmosphere to return to and it’s a small teaser to the circuit coming back to life.”
Already dubbed a major success, Clash of Rivals: Melbourne is set to be the first of what is hopefully a self-sustaining, perpetual circuit of amateur tournaments in Australia.
Outside of Victoria, talks between Rivalry and similar event operators in other capital cities, like Brisbane’s Daniel “mavrick” Lang, are still ongoing.
In the meanwhile, it’s all steam ahead for Rivalry’s second step of their Oceanic CS:GO revival late this week, with the inaugural “Insanely Awesome CS:GO Tournament” starting on Friday.
Run by Rivalry and produced in-house by Order, the $10,000 AUD event will see eight teams — six invites (Order, Vertex, Paradox, Overt, 8Ballers and 1620 Kings), and two qualifiers — battle it out in the first major OCE tourney for the calendar year.
DGG Esports went undefeated in the double-elimination qualifier last week, while Dead Weight made a miraculous lower bracket run to join them at the main event.
With both amateur and professional Counter-Strike planned to be catered for, the sky is the limit for our scene in 2022.
Clash of Rivals: Melbourne is the benchmark for grassroots tournaments going forward, and given how well executed the event was, the pressure is on for whoever comes next.
But with the abundance of talent, both centre stage and behind the scenes, this writer needs no convincing.
They’ll smash it out of the park — they always do.