GG Expo Wants To Help The Esports Community Connect IRL

GG Expo 2018

GG Expo, an upcoming three-day event billing itself as “the first dedicated esports convention” kicks off Memorial Day weekend. Tickets are available now, and organizers say many early buyers have confirmed they’ll utilize a laptop-friendly BYOC in the Tournament Hall. But Executive Director Joe English tells Player.One friendly matches and getting to be “first” at something IRL is just a fraction of what GG Expo will offer competitive gaming fans this May.

The event will dedicate one day each to genres GG organizers see as vital to the current competitive gaming scene. Saturday will focus on sports and fighting games. Sunday is dedicated to fantasy-themed titles like Hearthstone and Dota 2. Monday puts “battle” games in the spotlight, including PUBG, Overwatch and other shooters. Several pro players have already been confirmed for GG Expo, including Fnatic’s Sam “Poacher” Carmody, and Saturday will include a “triceleron” (a triathlon, but video games). But it won’t be anything like the area’s largest annual esports event: The International, the Dota 2 championship that takes over neighboring Seattle’s KeyArena every fall.

“You sit in the seats and watch the event,” English told Player.One. “It’s very much like going to a basketball game or a football game. There isn’t a lot of connection that goes on between the community in that kind of format.”

GG Expo will have more in common with traditional game conventions like E3 or PAX. But English still sees plenty of room for improvement in that formula.

“You spend all day waiting in line to play a new game for a few minutes,” he said. “It’s more about getting a peek behind [the curtain]. But the conversation became ‘Where do esports players and fans go when they want to delve deeper into what’s happening in esports?’ To understand the landscape. To understand what’s going on with the latest titles. To find out how you might get a job. Or to find out what universities are putting on programs that are really strong in esports.”

English says the team behind GG Expo wants to give the esports community a place to gather where they don’t feel like an honorable mention. Included, but not really explored, only because the omission would be too noticeable. The esports event will include content for fans who want more information on professional gaming careers, opportunities to play for a collegiate esports team and pursuing those endeavors healthily. The convention’s website notes more than a dozen college and pro players will be in attendance.

Show organizers don’t just want to let players see the professionals. GG Expo will let attendees hear from and interact with pros interested in teaching the next generation. The Hearthstone community might eventually produce a second Brian "Th3RaT" Courtade, the pro player turned tournament organizer behind the RaT Race, on its own. But a successor is much more likely if Courtade is given a public platform to explain the process to others interested in a similar path. GG Expo will give professional players a chance to demonstrate their skills in a series of exhibition matches. But attendees won’t just watch other people play video games all day.

“We’re going to do some exhibition matchups with some of the pros,” he said. “We know that all the content is going to be really education and really great. We also want to make [GG Expo] a fun experience. We know a lot of people are going to be young and want to play.”

The GG Expo team is also launching a new podcast, the GG Expo: The Headshot, intended for esports fans around the globe. The podcast isn’t available yet, but English says his team sees it as an opportunity to maintain a connection with esports fans before and after the inaugural GG Expo. The Headshot also gives the team a chance to explore material that is important to the esports community, but perhaps best explored in a less public setting.

“There are many topics that could be really, really interesting that wouldn’t appeal to a live audience,” English said. “One of those topics that was originally on our schedule was about addiction and drug use in esports. We think that’s a really interesting topic to discuss. But we didn’t know if, in a live environment, that would work very well. But we can see podcasts where we tackle topics with a wide variety of people.”

GG Expo takes place May 26-28 at the Meydenbauer Convention Center in Bellevue, WA.

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