Albany Capital Center To Host Esports Tournament Next Year

Sep 21, 2018

The largest Northeast collegiate esports event is coming to Albany.

The Capital Region will be a destination point for "gamers" when Hudson Valley Gamer Con 2019, an ECAC-MAAC sponsored video game tournament, comes to the Albany Capital Center in March.

According to wikipedia, The Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980 was the earliest large scale video game competition, attracting more than 10,000 participants across the United States, establishing competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby.
Credit wikipedia

The conference and Expo will feature seating for more than 800 fans to watch the ECAC esports Championships featuring popular games like Overwatch and League of Legends. Competitors are known as "esport athletes" who compete for college scholarships. ECAC CEO Dan Coonan:  "We're lookin' to provide value for all the colleges — we have an association with over 300 colleges in the  Northeast — and this was a way. we're talking to presidents, vice-presidents, they're lookin' for smart students to go into STEM subjects and they're finding that this really resonates, and it helps as an enrollment strategy and it's a fun thing for them as well."

Teams from area schools will compete in the March 30th and 31st event, which will feature fan activities and vendors. "We have 16 schools that start next week with our gaming competitions. We'll have them here, we might have some others. Every week I get another call or more or call from a conference saying, 'Hey we have schools that wanna be involved with you,' and on my board at work I've got another 50 schools that are in the process of gettin' this up and going. And I think in the next couple years you'll find almost every school will have some version of this. If it doesn't come from the top, the president sayin' 'Let's do it,' it's comin' from the grassroots, it's comin' from students."

WAMC intern Jesse King interviews Karthik Bala at the Albany Capital Center, September 2018.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Officials say Hudson Valley Gamer Con aims to match colleges and students with regional game developers to supply video game companies with new products and innovation.

Karthik Bala is CEO of Velan studios in Troy.  "My brother and I started Vicarious Visions when we were in high school in Rochester, New York, and I came to college at RPI and there was an RPI incubator center where we grew the studio, and in those early days, in the early 90's, I saw what was a glimpse of something revolutionary. The video game industry is $140 billion globally and it's going to $180 billion by 2021. And so we see gamers around the planet, 2.3 billion gamers on this planet. It's incredible and it's amazing how it brings together academic programs, STEM education, technology, as well as the artistry in making games, and makes up an important part of popular culture and entertainment."

Bala sees esports becoming more structured and grow into an Olympic-level event. "You've got ESPN broadcasting it on prime time. In countries in Asia, like Korea and China, it's a national sport."

He expects skyrocketing growth in North America. State Assemblywoman Pat Fahy sees esports becoming an economic driver throughout the region.  "We know as we invest in our public and private institutions and invest in the future and grow this talent, we will keep the talent here with investments like the companies that are incubated here and grow here, and then thank-you, so many of you who stay here."

Tyler "Ninja" Blevins is the first professional gamer in ESPN magazine's 20-year history.
Credit ESPN

ESPN The Magazine's next issue features a professional gamer on the cover.

The tournament will be held the same weekend as the NCAA women's basketball regional at the connected Times Union Center. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan:  "You know this is a two-day event that is gonna generate a lot of economic development just here in the city. Over those two days we're projecting more than half a million dollars is gonna be spent in and around the city of Albany. But it is as you've heard about so much more than that. This is about creating that environment that will spur the growth that we've heard about that we know we have here in our community."