BarCraft brings gaming to the mainstream

by Cody Franklin

barcraft

On an unassuming night, dozens of people are crowding into bars across the nation to watch their favorite teams and players clash in epic battles of will, determination and unmatched skill. As the game begins, the bar is packed full of roaring, excited fans ready for an adrenaline-pumping night.

Sounds like a typical Chargers game here in San Diego, right?

Wrong.

Rather than lining up on the football field, the players on the screen are sitting in front of computers. Rather than pushing their bodies to new heights, these players are performing incredible feats of mental prowess at rates as high as 300 actions per minute. This is e-sports, and the fans are here for BarCraft.

BarCraft is a movement to bring e-sports from the locked confines of nerd caves into the public eye. For a night or two every few weeks, sports bars across the world have begun changing their televisions to competitive video gaming coverage of “StarCraft II.”

The first BarCraft event took place in San Diego at Joe’s Pizza, and was created by popular e-sports personality “Diggity,” also known as Zach Smith.

“BarCraft is really no different from any other sports gathering. It’s just like the bar scene during MLB, NFL or NBA playoffs but nerdier,” he said.

Southern California is the heart of BarCraft. The Irvine chapter has seen massive success, partly because of its proximity to “StarCraft II” developer Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters. More than 400 people attended the event, including Blizzard staff such as CEO Michael Morhaime and lead designer Dustin Browder.

Host of the Irvine event, Caleb “CableSC” Finn, a UC San Diego graduate, said the game was “chess on steroids and in real time.”

He said outsiders shouldn’t be afraid to come to the events because of their accessibility to all people. According to Finn, many patrons who weren’t there for BarCraft ended up coming back and getting involved. He even has a “StarCraft for Rookies” sheet he hands out.

The San Diego BarCraft scene has also continued to grow. Jeff Nehlsen and Mikel Markham have organized several events at Randy Jones All American Sports Grill in Mission Valley. Markham described e-sports as “Monday Night Football for nerds,” and they both described “StarCraft” as being “sort of like a soap opera where person X and person Y have no idea what they’re doing and have a grudge against each other.”

However, Nehlsen said while other sports have a lot of rules, “The thing about “StarCraft” is it comes down to one rule: Blow the other guy up.”

Markham mentioned some bars have had a better turn out for BarCraft than other events, including the Super Bowl. He said BarCraft is “breaking the stereotype of the nerd living in his mom’s basement.” He also said it made the bar owner very happy, to have “110 nerds show up at (the) bar on a Sunday.”

BarCraft has now expanded around the world. This weekend there will be events held in Austria, England, Germany and Israel. “Diggity” was surprised to see how BarCraft has spread.

“I always felt that San Diego and Southern California in general was e-sports nerd central, but recently I have heard about the gigantic turn out in Montreal and elsewhere.

“I am hoping that we are just scratching the surface,” he said.

The next BarCraft events will be held this weekend for Major League Gaming Finals at Providence, a huge tournament with many top players in attendance. Nehlsen and Markham will host an event at Randy Jones starting at noon this Friday through Sunday. Finn will be hosting an event in Irvine as well, for those willing to make the trek north.