It's my first time in Seattle. Approaching the Colosseum-like CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks play, I'm greeted by massive murals of their stars, towering stories above me, giants of their game. There are already esports events that could appropriately fill this venue, but Heroes of the Dorm is a more humble affair. Behind the stadium is the CenturyLink Theatre, a venue used mostly for stage shows and concerts. There are banners here, too. Heroes of the Dorm, the second HotS tournament of its kind, has large banners hanging outside of its venue promoting the event, also depicting participating players, in a smaller imitation of the titanic football stars nearby. It's here, in the shadow of the most prestigious sport in America, that the bricks of Western esports continue to be laid. Here's what it was like.
After receiving our media passes, we enter a long hallway hanging with even more large banners for the event. The matches don't start for another 5 hours, and this time is set aside for the press to conduct interviews, prepare their live coverage, and eat catered pasta. Having been to every BlizzCon since its inception, the scale and quality of these events is nothing new to me, but something about Heroes of the Dorm is special. The Blizzard fan buzz inside of me is as strong as it ever was, and seeing the hundreds of rows of empty chairs, the huge, grand stage where the games will be played, the hyper-futuristic casting desk, and the rotating multicolored spotlights gives a sense of wonder, despite this being a "small" live esports event.
The Heroes of the Dorm arena, around noon on Saturday.
Being an "insider" at a Blizzard event feels like you've truly earned something. We check in at the upstairs media area, are given Azmodunk bundles and special player participant portraits, and get a look at the view from the Mezzanine. The Blizzard staff is incredibly helpful and encouraging. We meet people we've only communicated with through emails or tweets and exchange cards with other Heroes fans and reporters. The atmosphere and setup for this media area might be fairly industry standard, but as a person who spent most of his life just thoroughly enjoying games about swords, orcs, wizards, and spaceships, it seems surreal. The whole experience feels like Blizzard saying "We want this game and these events to succeed, and we know you're a vital part of that." I immediately know that taking time off of work to be here was well worth it.
Eventually, the event begins. As nice as the mezzanine is, it's somewhat detached from the action, a pleasant view from far above. We make our way down to the front row of the general seating area to be a part of the action, to be immersed in the noise and grandeur, because above all we are fans, and we want to scream and cheer with the rest of them. For this event, Blizzard hired a hype man for the crowd, something I have never personally experienced. It wasn't as contrived as I expected, with him basically engaging the crowd and getting them actively participating by throwing out prizes and making jokes. Part sports crowd, part television audience, his job is important, because there are more then a few empty times when the audience has to wait between matches and during commercials/promotional videos.
The beating heart of every tournament - the impressive Blizzard control/tech room.
Awash in amethyst: the Heroes of the Dorm 2016 audience, plus one empty chair for the photographer, your author.
And of course, the audience was in top form. There's nothing quite like cheering along with thousands of your nerd-minded friends during big plays and big victories. Granted, the games of the Heroic Four this year were highly one-sided, and for the most part, held very little big surprises or close moments. But that didn't affect the crowd's enthusiasm. We were all happy to be a part of it.
They may have made it look easy - but ASU had some tough decisions to make on the draft screen.
All in all, the experience was unique and completely validating. Even if there was no event, getting to see our friends from the Heroes community would have been worthwhile. If you ever get the chance to attend a Heroes event life, I encourage you to do so without hesitation. The atmosphere is electric, you're immersed with people who love games just like you, and you'll get to meet those people and forge new connections. Thanks to the Blizzard PR team and everyone involved with the massive undertaking that was Heroes of the Dorm 2016. You can see some of our favorite pictures form the event below. @StormLegacyTeam