Most mainstream folk stereotype esports and video game lovers as nerds hiding in their basements. Despite that antisocial image, though, gaming culture can be a lot more social. After all, esports and video games have some of the largest conventions out there, attracting thousands of professionals and fans alike every year.
What is an Esports Convention?
Esports conventions are where fans congregate to enjoy their favorite video games and get updated on the hottest developer news. Here, video game publishers announce their newest titles, show off their beta games to their audiences, and get involved in all the fandom fun that makes these events so beloved.
While people can find conventions for all hobbies and passions, video games and esports are explosive and game-changing (pun intended). Some big-name conventions even host esports tournaments within them. Esports conventions are also a great place to meet video game pros, like esports players, game developers, and everyone else who comes together to create these digital experiences.
History of Fan Conventions
What fans consider a modern convention began in the 1930s, with small groups of science fiction lovers congregating in Philadelphia and New York. The first official event was at the 1939 World's Fair, with the World Science Fiction Convention. It's now an annual event known as WorldCon. After that, more and more science fiction events started cropping up over the decades, giving the fans a rare space to geek out with their peers.
The first major, specialized convention was for Star Trek in 1972. It was a three-day event called "Star Trek Lives!" hosted at the New York Statler's Hilton. In the same decade, the first Golden State Comic-Con laid the groundwork for what would become the San Diego Comic-Con. Both these burgeoning events (and others like them) paved the way for even more comic cons, Star Wars events, and now, video game conventions.
Now, as far as video games go, just like esport tournaments, Nintendo was the forerunner. In 1989, their SpaceWorld convention was the first major place for video game fans to come together.
Top Esports Conventions
Every year, more and more gaming and esports conventions pop up, diversifying an already vast market. Sure, it can be overwhelming, but it just gives fans more opportunities to find events and spaces explicitly made for what they're into. For every raved-about single-player experience, these top publishers also add new multiplayer competitive games to their line-ups, constantly adding to the expansive landscape of esports.
E3 (AKA Electronic Entertainment Expo) is one of the largest conventions, starting in 1995. It's grown into an event famous for the S-Tier video games and publishers it attracts. However, unlike some other cons focused more on fandom and fun, E3 is also one of the least fan-friendly. It primarily exists as a trade event, where industry professionals come to show their new creations. The attendees tend to be the top, Triple-A video game publishers. The event is also often streamed so that fans that can't make it can catch hot, fresh trailers for big-budget video games. Online is where most gamers come together to enjoy what E3 has to offer.
Starting in 2004, PAX has become one of the ultimate video game experiences for fans. While games are still announced and shown off to fans here, the floors also offer esports events, gaming rooms, fandom shops, unique, creative panels, and celebrity meet-and-greets. Nowadays, there are a handful of ways to attend a PAX. The PAX event-runners hold them around the US and, as of 2020, even have some online events.
Since 2005, Blizzcon has been one of the largest video game events. It's an exciting combination of showcasing and events: the show is all about revealing single-player Blizzard Activision games as well as Overwatch, StarCraft, and other high-profile competitive Blizzard games. BlizzCon has had a history of causing fan chaos, though. For example, the Diablo: Immortal mobile game announcement coming in place of an expected Diablo 4 teaser riled up fans and ended in an infamous "you guys have phones, right?" meme.
Specialized Conventions/Esports Involvement
While many video game conventions exist for specific publishers, some popular esports have enough fans to hold their own conventions. Many esports choose to focus on their tournaments, but some events like the 2015 Summoner's Con for League of Legends celebrate the fandom around the esport. However, most esport developers and players prefer to participate in panels and stalls at PAX or other events.
Instead, many esports developers choose to hold live streams that act like their own personal showcase conventions, just online. For example, to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary of LoL in 2019, Riot Games had a livestream where they teased a competitive shooter called "Project A", which Riot eventually revealed to be the freshly popular FPS, Valorant.
Activities At Esports Conventions
What you can do at esports conventions largely depends on the conventions you're going to. If it's a more serious showcase for trailers and Triple-A publishers like E3, it's more focused on the business side of things. You'll basically just be there to see the new trailers and announcement presentations.
Other events, though, also significantly focus on fandom things, like art shopping, apparel, cosplaying, geeky panels, meet and greets, gaming rooms, game-testing, watching esports, and so much more. The most crucial part is that, before you go to one of these, just check out the schedule to make sure you don't miss your favorite voice actor or a riveting amateur Smash tournament just because you were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
When it comes to professionals in the esports industry, this is also the perfect place for networking opportunities in your given field.
Esports and Fans
For fans wanting to get involved in esports, esports and video game conferences are great ways to see what's happening in the esports world. You can join in amateur competitions or get early access to the latest announcements. Moreover, gamers don't get many other opportunities to interact with their favorite players, creators, and fresh new games, so conventions are the perfect place to do that. Are the attendee numbers making you feel a little shy? Bring friends or wear a costume that covers your face. Just make sure you don't miss out on these year-round events.
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