They never really played games before, let alone seriously. This sentiment, coming from several of the competitors at this weekend’s Mobile Masters: Las Vegas e-sports tournament, was the most inspiring.
For all the ‘free-to-play’ and ‘pay-to-win and ‘baby game’ complaints that gets bandied about by ‘core’ gamers regarding mobile gaming, the fact is mobile games reach a wider and more diverse audience; Moms, Dads, Kids, Grandparents all have access to the thousands of games on the Google Play and Apple Appstore.
This means literally anyone could download Vainglory, World of Tanks: Blitz, or Power Rangers: Legacy War, find they have a knack for it, and months later find themselves on national television.
And that’s exactly what happened. During Mobile Masters: Las Vegas’s media day, the competitors in the above games were interviewed by a panel of curious journalists, and one fact rang clear regarding their sudden ‘pro’ status: They never saw it coming.
The competitors range widely in age, race, background, and gaming knowledge. But what seems to unify them all is the fact they downloaded their game of choice for the same reason any of us would – it seemed fun.
And now here they are.
One player downloaded World of Tank: Blitz on a whim on break at work, and now finds himself in Las Vegas competing for thousands of dollars. He doesn’t own a console or PC.
Another player, curiously similar in manner and appearance to Miles Teller, started playing ‘Vainglory’ in the wake of a serious injury derailed his dream of joining the military, and he needed a distraction while rehabbing on a stationary bike – he now plays Vainglory as his full-time job.
One of the Power Rangers: Legacy War players is 30 years old and has two kids. Some players are still in high school. Most have ‘real’ jobs. One quit his ‘real job’ to abscond to South Korea for a tournament…which his team won. Another had his parents go with him to the same tournament.
These stories could be filed under dictionary definition of “The American Dream”.
When interviewing the Amazon Executive that made the ‘Mobile Masters’ tournaments a reality, he said he wanted to make The ‘Super Bowl of Mobile Gaming’. While a noble ambition and one that may yet be fulfilled, what he’s actually done is created The World Series of Poker of E-Sports – in spirit, anyway.
Back in the day online poker gave the regular Joe or Jane an opportunity for immortality from the comfort of their living room. The ability to play a game online and translate that into real-world money, glory, and fame was intoxicating and lead to the mid-2000s poker boom.
When Chris Moneymaker turned an $86 World Series of Poker qualifier into a 3.2 million dollar victory, the entirety of America thought they could do it too. And…they could…and did. Online poker was accessible, relatively cheap, and ‘the game’ was in your head and not based on how fast, strong, quick, or athletic you were. The barrier to participation was practically nil.
And by focusing on mobile e-sports, Mobile Masters is doing the exact same thing. The barrier to entry is literally owning one of the 7 billion plus mobile devices on the planet.
None of the players expected to ‘go pro’, but like Chris Moneymaker, here they are, on the precipice of winning thousands of dollars and legitimizing themselves and their favorite – and sometimes only game in a big bad way.
The full tournament will be broadcast on Twitch.TV, and a produced, W.S.O.P-esque version will air on CBS Sports. The players are dialed in, humble, excited, and ready to kick some digital butt for themselves, their games, and for every single person in this whole wide world with a cell-phone that can watch and think to themselves they can do it too.
Because they very well could.