Most of the conversations overheard during an early November scroll down the Internet centered around the end (for some) of an election, and gloomy projections of upward ticking COVID counters. But many of the video game-minded found themselves at the intersections of West Coast education and esports, Art and OSU!, League of Legends and Super Smash Bros, CLG and Logitech, Discord and Twitch and all the rest at the SoCal Fall Festival.

Over 1000 people attended the festival back in early November, and it’s happening again this coming February weekend, this time aptly named the SoCal SnowDown.

It’ll be a similar format to the Fall Festival: a two-day gaming festival hosted and run by students from USC’s Summoner School, UCLA, UC Berkeley, CSUN, SDSU, GCC, UCSD, Fullerton Community College, UCF and one high school student. It’ll be packed with competitive and casual tournaments including League of Legends, Valorant, Mario Kart 8, Minecraft, OSU!, Kahoot and Super Smash Bros, among others.

Competitive tournament schedule.
Competitive tournament schedule.

Though many of the games are at their cores, competitive (VALORANT, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros), the administrators’ intent is to highlight gaming rather than just esports.

“We really want to unify the collegiate gaming community between each of our schools, and we felt that only including competitive games would deter the casual gaming community away from our event,” said Oscar Cruz, an admin of the festival.

He said they’re even more focused on casual gaming this time around, with games like Minecraft, Fall Guys and Among Us being hosted to provide the less esports driven with a collective gaming experience of their own.

Casual game schedule for the SoCal SnowDown.
Casual game schedule for the SoCal SnowDown.

Mixed in will be panels on the esports and gaming industry, with employees from companies and organizations like Riot Games and Counter Logic Gaming hopping on the Twitch stream. Artists from the community will be featured in the Discord and in a Minecraft gallery, selling their work and offering commissions during the weekend’s events.

In terms of prizing, the goody bags are plump. Over $7000 will rain over the victors in the form of Riot Points - the currency needed to browse Riot’s lush catalog of skins and cosmetics across their many games - along with bounties of Corsair and HyperX mechanical keyboards who’s keys travel for miles, and headsets with Bluetooth and headsets without. T Shirts and mousepads and Gunnar blue light glasses, MSI monitors and Pokeball battery packs and most importantly of all, the MSI swag bag for whoever gets 4th place in Kahoot.

Some players may come out of this tournament with RGB flowing from their wallets and eyes.

SnowDown is the type of event that would be close to impossible in person, and the travel and housing constraints that prevent students from going to a festival multiple hours away no longer apply in the digital format.

“In the virtual space, we aren’t constrained by the physical size of the location or trying to get enough PCs into a venue to allow everyone to play,” said Cruz.

Mijan Glez, a Norwalk high school student, enjoyed the festival’s online nature because “It still lets me enjoy some of the festivities without being at the main place which is really cool for me since I live a certain distance from it.”

Being a digital festival, the stage is Twitch, the grounds Discord and the crowd’s roar a cacophony of clattering keyboards, whirring computer fans and the furious pings of tournament announcements among the strings and strings of messages constructing a written account of a festival’s continuous dialogue.

The preparation for the constant flow of tournaments and matches requires a feat of coordination that rivals the League of Nations.

“What’s most challenging is definitely coordinating between the schools, since we’ve doubled our numbers from the previous event,” said Lauren Chen, the lead admin of Fall Fest and the SnowDown.

Last semester already saw some big turnouts for their tournaments. League of Legends was the most popular, but the admins were caught off guard with some of the more niche games.

“I think one thing we really didn’t account for was the number of OSU! players. We were not expecting to have about 200 people sign up for that,” said Lauren Shen, an administrator of the festival and staff of USC’s Summoner School.

The SnowDown Discord server already has over 1200 members, and 384 registered players across all tournaments as of today.

USC’s will be represented in games like League of Legends, where the varsity team will be participating, and in the production side where Junior Dylan Palacios will be casting Valorant, and Junior Andrew Obeso and Senior Thomas Ling will be casting Super Smash Bros.

We’ll be keeping updated on the tournaments’ progression, and seeing if any rising talent bubbles up from the plethora of schools involved.