Sun, Aug 06, 2017 - Page 11 News List

HK e-sports festival a hit

AFP, HONG KONG

Members of Team Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, right, and team Europe, left, compete in a League of Legends tournament in Hong Kong on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Hundreds of youthful fans on Friday cheered on some of the world’s best-known video game players as they competed in a cyberbattle during Hong Kong’s first-ever large-scale e-sports festival.

The event comes at a time when professional gaming is gaining global traction as an official international sport.

It is to be a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games to be held in China, the world’s second-largest sporting event behind the Olympics.

Gaming veterans got a rock star introduction as they were welcomed on stage at the indoor Hong Kong Coliseum with a booming pyrotechnic display, as fans went wild.

The three-day tournament pits teams of ex-professional players from Spain, Germany, China, the US and Hong Kong against each other in League of Legends matches.

Fans cheered for the players seated on stage, whose images were also beamed onto large screens to the stadium crowd at the event, dubbed the E-Sports and Music Festival.

Leading players, many of whom have grueling training regimens, can make megabucks playing in tournaments that can offer more than US$1 million in prize money.

“You pretty much have no free time — your free time is League of Legends as well so you’re playing the whole time and thinking about the game and watching replays,” said well-known League of Legends player Enrique Cedeno Martinez, known by his handle xPeke.

Despite his team’s loss to players from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau in the three-hour opening match of the tournament, a queue of fans formed to take selfies with the 25-year-old Spaniard.

“In the end it’s not that physical, but it is as mentally demanding as a sport is,” Martinez’s Finnish teammate Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen said.

Attendee Gabriella Leung, 20, said the competitive element in professional gaming make it a sport, but that people might have misconceptions about it.

“What is important is that people get to know e-sports and that people won’t assume that those playing games are useless youths or can’t study,” she said. “Stripping away these concepts is more important than recognizing it as a sport.”

The festival, which ends today and is expected to draw up to 50,000 people, is to also feature performances by Korean pop stars including bands EXO and Super Junior.

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