Getting their game on for a great cause
Jamie Freeman - October 12, 2012
This Saturday afternoon upwards of 300 video game enthusiasts from all across Atlantic Canada will assemble in the Student Union Building's McInnes Room to kick off Frag For Charity (FFC), a two day eSport or video gaming event that is the largest of its kind east of Montreal.
In its seven-year history, FFC has raised over $60,000 for cancer-related regional charities.
The main attractions each year are the tournaments which pit gamer against gamer in one-on-one competition. The games? Big titles like Starcraft II, Counter Strike, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Street Fighter IV and more.
FFC Founder and Dal alum Yazeed Sobiah says the competition “starts off very friendly [but] once you get to the finals it gets very electric [and] games can be decided by split seconds.”
On Sunday, during the championship matches, the McInnis Room will be fitted out with spectator seating and video projectors. Commentators will join the competitors on stage and provide moment-to-moment coverage of the gameplay’s twists and turns.
This year’s event will also feature a live DJ, a cosplay contest (that means costumes, for the uninitiated) contest, raffles, giveaways, casual gaming stations and even a retro gaming museum. On Sunday, there will be an awards ceremony to honour the winners.
The whole event will be accessible via streaming live video.
Plugged into Dal
Underneath this feat of organization is a very dedicated and passionate team of volunteers, many of whom are Dal students or alumni. Part of the reason FFC is such a success is that it “has become a staple event at Dal,” said Sobiah.
Every year FFC partners with the Dalhousie eSports Society (DeSS), who provides organizational and volunteer support. DeSS VP Ben Dexter said that Dal’s support has been steadily growing each year.
“For the first couple of years, it was kind of hard to get it started [but] Dal is very accepting of our events. They’ve let us book the rooms and given us sponsorships [and] it's great having the support,” says Dexter.
One of the goals of this year’s FFC is to try to make video gaming more accessible to parents, many of whom, organizers say, don't necessarily understand the benefits that come from eSports, such as increased self-confidence.
This point was illustrated two years ago when an eight-year-old defeated 30 or 40 competitors to make it to an FFC championship game where he was facing down a 22-year-old.
“Everybody was cheering for the little guy. [His] parents were there and they didn’t even know what was going on but they were cheering for him too,” Sobiah says.
Nick Soh, a senior year engineering student at Dal and President of DeSS, says that, in addition to building self-confidence, eSports can enhance a player’s teamwork skills, eye-hand coordination and competitive drive in a way that is often not appreciated by its detractors.
Soh speaks of his first experience at FFC two years ago where he made it to the final rounds of the StarCraft II tournament.
“I remember having like 20 people standing behind me watching me play and that was just ridiculous. it was the craziest feeling ever,” he says.
Andrew Weseen, an FFC organizer, hopes that charitable gaming events like FFC can help break the inaccurate stereotype of gamers as social introverts who spend their days “in a computer chair and becoming a slob.”
Weseen says this stereotype does not, in fact, reflect the lifestyles of the world’s top tier professional gamers most all of whom live an active social life and “go to the gym because they know a good physical health leads to a good mental health and that [the latter] is necessary for winning.”
Dexter is hopeful that mainstream culture will grow to embrace gaming. “I’d love to see eSports be on the same level as regular sports. Like you could go out and watch the StarCraft game instead of the football game,” he says.
Supporting the cause
Dal alumni and students have not only been key in founding, organizing and attending FFC, they also tend to dominate the tournament leaderboards. In the FFC StarCraft II tournament last year, “one of our ace players [a Dal student] took the finals in a sweep” says DeSS member and FFC volunteer Eric Jackson. Following that victory, Dal supporters gathered round to “throw [the winner] up in the air,” says Dexter.
Sobiah says that amidst the rivalry and fanfare, there will be time to stop and reflect on “what FFC is all about: we’re fundraising here [and] we’re doing something good for a good cause.”
Frag For Charity begins on October 13 at noon in the McInnes Room in the Dal Student Union Building. The price of admission is $10. No gear is necessary, unless attendees want to bring preferred controllers.