Sitting like a hacker in a spy movie behind a row of monitors, Henry Mei, 1st year PhD student in ECE and Co-Chair of Gamefest, attempts to play two games at once while still running a two day gaming event that hundreds of people attend.
Mei looks back fondly on the early days of Gamefest, now in it’s 7th year at Tech, when the tournament was just 20-30 Tech students playing their favorite video games in the basement of the College of Computing.
“It was actually called C.o.C.-Land, and yeah Gamefest is probably an improved name,” joked Mei before explaining how the event has grown enormously in the past few years.
Gamefest is now a two day video game tournament that draws about 800-900 people to campus each semester. This past weekend marked the event’s 9th anniversary, and the event’s organizers can only see a future of bigger and better Gamefests.
For $15, anyone can join the competition. This year, nearly 20 different gaming options were offered to participants, along with parking and overnight computer storage. As soon as the doors opened at noon on Saturday to when they closed at nearly midnight on Sunday, professional gamers and newcomers alike could be found with bulky headphones mashing buttons in quests for glory in the game of their choice.
“We try to change up the tournament offerings each year. At the end, we survey about what games [participants] liked,” said Barrett McGowin, 5th year ME and Logistics Director for Gamefest.
According to McGowin, the favorite games are pretty stable. League of Legends, Dota 2 are the usual favorites. McGowin and Mei attribute this fact to their status as “MOBA” or “multiplayer online battle arena” games.
“[MOBA games] are definitely the most popular,” said Mei. “Tech fields teams in all of them. We always say that Tech has done better in e-sports than in athletic sports.”
“E-sports,” which is short for electronic sports, is extremely fast-growing. Just like in any other sport, there are professional gamers. With some tournament winnings reaching over $10 million, being the best can be quite a lucrative position.
Tech is currently a “powerhouse” for some of the best gamers around. According to Mei, there are three to four League of Legends Grandmasters on campus. Mei and the other organizers hope to use Tech’s reputation as an innovative, technology-based school and our large gaming population to help Gamefest grow and expand in the future. They even have dreams of rivaling Momocon, which began at Tech as well and currently has over 15,000 attendees each year.
“If we push hard on marketing, which we plan to next year, we can reach 1000 participants easily,” said Mei.
Mei has reasons to be optimistic, as well. Gamefest has already expanded across two buildings: the Klaus Advanced Computing Building and the Clough Undergraduate Learning Center. Earlier this semester, when Klaus seemed to be potentially closed to student organizations, the Gamefest hosts were worried. Luckily, the situation was sorted out long before Gamefest began.
Finding enough funding has also been somewhat problematic for the organizers. They like to have enough pizza, soda and t-shirts for everyone, but of course, that requires some serious funding.
“Web development is really expensive if you want someone good,” said Mei.
Despite all of this, Mei and McGowin believe they were able to pull off a successful Gamefest.
“I think the most rewarding part is seeing the appreciation after the fact. It’s…knowing you gave that experience to someone. I really love nurturing the community aspect of it,” said Mei.
Gamefest is most definitely a community-building experience, too. Despite the fact the event is a competition, participants can be seen laughing and eating gluttonous amounts of pizza as they all participate in the sport they love best: gaming.