The real gamers

Spectators+gathered+to+watch+a+Pro+Circuit+round+in+Columbus%2C+Ohio.+This+tour+will+stop+in+Orlando%2C+Florida+on+Oct.+14-16%2C+2011.+Photo+courtesy+of+MLG.

Spectators gathered to watch a Pro Circuit round in Columbus, Ohio. This tour will stop in Orlando, Florida on Oct. 14-16, 2011. Photo courtesy of MLG.

Mark Gibson

Spectators gathered to watch a Pro Circuit round in Columbus, Ohio. This tour will stop in Orlando, Florida on Oct. 14-16, 2011. Photo courtesy of MLG.

Every week, on the first floor of the Student Union of  the Boca campus, a plethora of students gather around a TV to play video games. The scene is usually silent, with bursts of crowd cheers and groans. To a passerby, it may seem like carefree recreation, but according to one FAU student, “it’s serious.”

“For most people, it’s just a game and we have fun because we are all friends,” said Javon Franklin, a senior communications major. “But for those who compete on a competitive level, the games are personal. They live and breathe these games every second of their lives.”

What most people may not know is that competitive gaming  is done on a professional level, with competitors and teams being sponsored like NASCAR drivers. Franklin has competed nationally in games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Tekken, and has also taken part in a competition circuit known as Major League Gaming (MLG).

Electronic Sports, or eSports, is a large growing community, with MLG being one of the biggest and most popular competition series  around. Despite arguments over whether competitive gaming is a true sport, the world of eSports has become more popular in the eyes of the mainstream media over the last few years, at least according to MLG’s Vice President of Communications, Katie Goldberg.

“MLG has grown exponentially since our inaugural season in 2003,” said Goldberg, “The 2011 MLG Pro Circuit season has been record breaking, with the largest prize purse to date, the most epic crowds and millions tuning in from around the globe to watch the competition live online.”

The numbers speak for themselves.

MLG saw the largest amount of live streaming on its website when the Pro Circuit hit Raleigh, North Carolina from Aug. 26-28. The record live streaming peaked with 138,000 views spanning across 173 countries, and there were 20,000 live spectators at the event. More than three million hours of video were watched.

“Our goal has been to make MLG the premier competitive gaming league while furthering the awareness of eSports amongst the gaming community and beyond,” said Goldberg. “Our broadcasts have always been influenced by traditional sports broadcasting in order for a new viewer to quickly start watching and feel the excitement.”

On Oct. 14-16, MLG’s 8th annual Pro Circuit tour will be coming to the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center  in Orlando, which is the last stop before the championship in Providence, Rhode Island.

Gamers from as far as Sweden, Korea and Australia will come stateside to compete against Floridians, and other gamers from around the nation, to duke it out in Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Starcraft 2. Winners from the amateur ring will get a chance to play against the pros.

“MLG has always encouraged amateur players and teams and given them the opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit,” said Goldberg. “A number of our current pro players and teams started at the amateur level and worked their way up to pro status.”

But Franklin, who has played on the amateur ring at MLG, attests to the fact that it is a life altering goal to go pro.

“It will takes years off of your life,” said Franklin. “Becoming a professional gamer is not the same as being a pro athlete. You need to dedicate everything you have to becoming a professional. You either have the talent, or you work your whole life to get it.”

Pricing for spectator and competitive passes  at the Orlando convention

Spectator Passes for the weekend = $25

Halo: Reach Team Pass = $280

Call of Duty: Black Ops Team Pass = $240

Starcraft 2 Player Pass = $70