With the growth of esports collegiate teams comes the influx of esports collegiate events and tournaments to provide a space for these teams to test their mettle against one another. A few weeks ago, the Esports Association at the University of Oklahoma traveled to compete in a collegiate Overwatch tournament titled “OP Live.” OP Live was located in Irving, Texas in the Irving Convention Center. The convention center itself is a mixed-use entertainment complex that is almost 100,000 square feet in size. OP Live took place in the column-free exhibit hall that is nearly 50,000 square feet in itself. The Irving Convention Center is unique in its design with its unfinished copper exterior that assists with sunlight and cooling air, the copper will eventually weather and turn to a green shade. The building is certified LEED Silver ranking, which is the second level of certification. LEED, meaning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that tracks the development and futherment of sustainable and green design. Even the water for the convention center is a part of a treatment system of the nearby Lake Carolyn. The column-less hall allowed for OP Live to layout their event as they saw fit.
With sixteen universities attending and competing, as well as other major points of the event such as the Dallas Fuel booth, a few vendors, and a meet and greet area, OP Live needed to layout the event to accommodate the various activities and amount of people. To allow for multiple teams to compete, set up adjacent to the stage where the rows of computers where most of the matches took place. These computers were later opened up to all attendees for free play. While it’s understandable that not all of the preliminary matches could be viewed on stage, as it simply could not be put in the time allotted, it would have, in my opinion, been better to switch up which grouping of teams was competing during the first matches so that the audience would be better engaged.
The stage itself was set up much like other competitive stages, with enough computers set up on each side for each team. The display screen was set up in the middle and seemed to give the full audience a good view of the matches. For a temporary two-day event, the stage was well set up and well-lit. Each team was surrounded by lighting that reflected the color of the team they were playing in the game itself. This allowed anyone to sit down at any point during the game and understand which team was which without needing to ask. The team desks themselves also had an LED screen inlaid into them to add a point of interest for the audience that would react to the audio of the events. The audience was set up in a theater style that is a flat rendition of the style which directly faces the stage in a straight line. There was enough seating for at least 300 people which seemed to nicely accommodate the crowd. It was very rarely that other people were in the way of those in the back from seeing the screen due to the height placement of the stage and screen. For a ground-level audience, this works well to allow them to see. Where other arenas get away with lower stages is when they raise the audience up bleacher style so that they may look down onto the stage.
The rest of the event was laid out to make use of the large rental space. Booths and things were scattered throughout to make wide walkways. It was difficult to realize where some booths were, simply due to the free scattering of them all and the height of the event walls. This worked well, however, for a two-day event that was the first of its occurrences. They would benefit from not only a few more vendors but a more linear plan as well.
OP Live also featured stations entitled “Streamer Pods” which were medium sized cubes that had glass walls for two sides. Within these pods were enough room for a small desk, a computer, two monitors, and accessories. These pods were provided to host streamers at different times to stream while at the event. The streamers would use the pods during their allotted times to play games while streaming to their fans. Some streamers would also have a meet and greet time at the meet and greet booth so that people could come talk to them. This could potentially have been a good way for not only streamers to come out and interact with fans in a different setting than their used to, but as well for their viewers back home to know that OP Live was occurring and could watch that stream as well if they were interested. The idea of streamer pods is quite interesting, it draws streamers out of their regular holdings and into a new space which could change up the way they stream depending on how much the streamer relies on their own comfort for their stream. This also adds a new venue for their fans and viewers to interact with them in a space that has provided security to both the streamer and the fan.
For being the first collegiate competition that many schools will attend, OP Live put together a successful event. They made due with the number of vendors that they had by spacing them throughout the hall and placing lounge areas in various areas to supplement the free spaces. Providing other zones that featured guests that were not competing such as streamers and members of the Dallas Fuel heavily supplemented for the shortcomings of the event. With this success, OP Live might be able to provide more activities for attendees during future events that they may hold.