Prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, on March 6th, USC Esports Union and SC Esports co-hosted the school’s first Overwatch Carnival. Held in Heritage Hall’s Bashor Lounge, the night offered the opportunity for Overwatch players to gather and compete.
The carnival-themed event, whose expected turnout was 30, drew 80 people with the allure of free pizza and popcorn as well unlimited amounts of Overwatch. Players could join one of three distinct areas set up for minigames, or they could participate in ranked 6v6 battles on the main screen. SC’s varsity team also took part in the ranked matches, providing competition for the players that took them on. Players who attempted the 6v6 tournament did so with the hopes of winning Overwatch League tickets.
“There are a lot of casual Overwatch players out there, but we didn't know how to reach them, Said Andrew Obeso who coordinated the event. “So our big, our best solution was to make an events to actually draw people out and come out and play.” With the creation of an Overwatch event that welcomes all players regardless of affiliation or skill-level, the Overwatch Carnival only further exemplified Obeso’s point.
Sponsored by the LA Gladiators, the Overwatch Carnival also featured various raffles. With the announcement of each raffle, players clutched handfuls of tickets in the hopes of taking home prizes that ranged from Gladiators merch and pillows to hats and PS4s.
The Overwatch Carnival is as much an attempt to bring collegiate gaming into the mainstream as it is to bring college gamers under the same roof. While USC does have organizations dedicated to bringing gamers together, there are still many players who do not align with them.
Reasons for showing up varied from person to person. When asked about what drew him to the event, one player, William “Broccoli” Liu, said it was “less the Gladiators more the pizza.” On the flip side, masters student Dennis Tai claimed that it was from an interest in video gaming as well as a wish to network with the LA Gladiators’ managers. “I too am interested in a career in the gaming industry,” said Tai, “so I thought I could make these connections and possibly develop a career in video gaming.”
The decision to bring a pro team into the fray was also Obeso’s idea. “We definitely want to reinforce the idea that fans of Overwatch should also be fans of the pro teams,” said Obeso. The partnership with the LA Gladiators allowed for there to be a raffle, as well as the six Overwatch League tickets meant for the winning team in 6v6. While the players did not make an appearance, the team’s signature purple and white logo could be seen all around the venue.
The Overwatch Carnival was an event meant to reach the core casual fanbase of Overwatch that existed in scattered formations across campus. While it would be interesting to see how other events of similar caliber fare, due to the outbreak of a global pandemic, it is unclear when the next mass gathering of gamers will occur.