While bars are a hotspot for sports fans (from UFC to Olympic waterpolo), Dave Creamer looks to bring another brand of sport to Canadian bar screens, starting with Toronto: eSports.
Name: Dave Creamer
Suitless Pursuit: Director of eSports Canada and organizer of Toronto Barcraft
So we're at Barcraft right now...but what exactly is Barcraft?
Barcraft is a bunch of nice, lovely, sexy people getting together and watching StarCraft [at a bar]. Today we have a tournament going on in Anaheim. It’s good for our time zone, and people gather to watch those matches the same as anyone would for hockey, baseball, and to a lesser extent, soccer. We host one every one or two months.
And you organized this as director of eSports Canada. Is that your day job?
No, I do it on the side. It’s a non-profit, so none of us get paid to do this. We actually spend a lot. We have about 100 members across Canada that host these events in their respective areas, help online or help out at other Barcrafts.
What do you do as a day job?
I work in trading and risk management, but I’m not working this summer. I just finished working for Fidelity setting up their risk department. After working 9-5, I’d get home and check up on all the eSports stuff and get caught up with everything. Weekends are pretty free and that’s when we put the most time in. Sometimes it’s a lot of stuff, but it's fun. It never feels like work to me.
What was your first Barcraft like?
The first one was at a theatre about three years ago. It was the Global StarCraft II League Season 3 finals and I just went not knowing anything. At the time I had just moved to Toronto and I didn’t know a lot of people. I didn’t have anyone who was into games to go with me, but I said “screw it” and I went by myself. As soon as I got in people started asking me what StarCraft race I play, who I’m cheering for, all that. I instantly started meeting people and so it was a really good environment. A lot of people came in groups of two or three and they obviously just wanted to meet the community, so it was a really good experience and a lot of fun.
What were people’s reactions when people found out you were doing gaming events?
A lot of people who aren't into gaming are either curious or think it’s a little weird. A few friends who came by thought it was odd but as soon as they saw 100 people around the screen watching, they were astonished. Even more so when they saw a tournament with 4000 people cheering and chanting. They had no idea that this type of fandom exists [for eSports]! Almost everyone converts once they see it, whether it’s for them or not.
Have you ever told your boss about it?
I have. My former boss happens to have the same exact name as a former Starcraft pro player. So I told my boss, “Hey, this guy has the same name as you...and he makes a living playing video games”.
I also got a coworker into it. He had played Starcraft on his own but never multiplayer. He was always scared of it. I showed him Starcraft II and it took him 10 games to beat his first live human being, who was probably a six-year old somewhere.
Sometimes you run into other people even in the business world. I ran into a colleague of mine from another company who was wearing a zerg tie, but nobody else recognized that symbol. I was like “Hey, that’s zerg! That’s a horrible race.” So we connected and I told him about the events.
Why do people choose to watch StarCraft II out of all videos games?
It’s an interesting game and a lot of people play it. It’s had a huge following since StarCraft I and it became even more popular with StarCraft II. There’s a lot of intricacy to it. No two matches are ever the same and there’s such a high level of play to it. Throughout the entire thing you can see what the players are planning on getting into. There’s a lot of suspense and anticipation. There are a lot of things to talk about throughout the whole game and a lot of the people who watch the pro players go home and try to use those strategies.
Once you know these games, you’ll think to yourself, “I could never do that”. That’s what draws people to sports. People think “I could never do what Sidney Crosby did.” Well, you can’t do what HerO does either. That’s what I think makes it a little bit more impressive. I think once people start to see it and see the fan base, they will start to understand it.
Do people ever get converted at Barcraft?
Just last week we held one at Seneca College and there was a girl there who just got off work and asked what was going on. So I explained it to her, and it turned out that she used to play RTS [real-time strategy] games! She was instantly converted. She came by the next day for the finals and watched it for 10 hours.
Speaking of girls, I think you know where I’m going with this, but do girls go to these events?
Well, I’m not going to say it’s anywhere near 50:50. A lot of them come with their boyfriends or friends. But there are still a good number of them out there who do get into it. For many people, I think it starts with playing World of Warcraft and then they get into other Blizzard games. They try Diablo, then StarCraft, and they find there’s either more depth or that they enjoy that type of game. There’s a pretty decent and growing fan base.
We are trying to be girl-friendly. I know it can be more intimidating for them to step into a bar with 30 dudes or something, but we've definitely got a few girls who are volunteers. We're trying to make it more hospitable and not sexist.
Are some of the stereotypes of the gaming culture true? Are there any basement dwellers?
Oh yeah. Totally. It’s really bright now.
Well, no. I live above ground.
But seriously, what stereotypes are there and are they true?
Some of them are true. I think the first one is that people always assume that we’re anti-social and can’t interact with people. I think that goes directly against the purpose of Barcraft. Not to say that some gamers aren’t anti-social. Just the fact that we’re doing this and have people out shows a willingness to socialize and meet others. And also the fact that we’re hosting in-person events sort of breaks down that stereotype. We’ve made a lot of good friends this way and people get to know each other. You get more out of these games when there is that social element.
What does organizing barcraft mean to you?
It’s fun. It means meeting a lot of people. It’s giving back to the community. I’ve always played video games and now I’m in a position to help out and bring business experience to eSports in Canada. I think the more engaged you are in something, the more you get out of it.