Games have been a part of human culture since ancient times. Not only do we play games to enjoy social interaction, but we also seek to test and compare our skills against others. Video game competitions started when students at Standford University organized the first ever gaming tournament for Spacewar!, a game that involved spaceships firing photon torpedoes in an attempt to destroy each other. Since that 1972 event, the evolution of community-organized gaming competitions has continued.
The March 28, 2016 release of the Oculus Rift and the April 5, 2016 release of the HTC Vive opened up possibilities for people to take video game competitions to the next level – virtual environments. These two headsets made it possible to play VR multiplayer games with opponents around the world in real-time.
One of the first community VR esports tournaments was organized by DaKinMan, a player and enthusiast of Onward, a popular VR mil-sim first person tactical shooter from Downpour Interactive released in August 2016.
“A few months after the official release, the Onward community was already playing Onward competitively by hosting weekly tournaments and playing in a league called ‘The Late Night League,’” says DaKinMan. In 2017, he decided to “leverage the league functionalities and started the VR Master League .”
Today, DaKinMan explains how the community-driven VRML “provides a platform where players can sign-in, connect with one another, find teams, organize competitive matches and compete in an official ladder.”
The VR League , the official VR esports league sponsored by Oculus and ESL, took note of VRML’s success and actually worked in tandem with them to present Onward at the VR League season 2 world finals in September with a prize pool for that game of $60,000. The VRML is an example of what can be achieved with well-organized community tournaments.
It’s not all going to be plastic. Today, virtually everyone loves everything about VR, which accounts for the magnitude of its success. But the technology continues to evolve at a breakneck speed. One focus of technological advances related to VR is the engineering and design of the headset. Expectedly, there are ultra high-tech and complicatedly designed headsets out there. But some tech wizards have taken it one step further, thereby making it way more accessible to everyone. Now, there are tutorials about making VR headsets out of pieces of cardboard. Not only has this opened a plethora of possibilities for VR, it has gotten people to think in creative ways to upsize their experiences.
When the VR League began in July 2017, Echo Arena was one of two titles chosen to be featured in season one. Ready at Dawn’s Echo Arena saw 258 players participate in 98 teams worldwide in an attempt to dominate a zero-gravity virtual arena with a disc.
Players enjoyed the VR League competition so much that xSkitz, admin of the official Echo Games discord server, organized the first community tournament, called the Echo Arena Discord Cup. There were 73 attendees in the February 3, 2018 event.
The world’s top Echo Arena teams were advancing to the world finals a few weeks later, but meanwhile community tournaments such as the Discord Cup keep players engaged, allow them to continue developing their skills, and encourage participation of new teams.
“Community tournaments promote a good low-stakes environment for any and everyone to participate in,” states xSkitz. He adds that community tournaments and events “offer the community both an event to partake in and provide a goal to work towards during otherwise normal play sessions.”
Hidden Path Entertainment released Brass Tactics on February 22, 2018 and zGetsu, an active member of the VR gaming community, already had the first community tournament scheduled for March 31. More impressive is the fact that there were 28 attendees only a month after the game’s release.
All generations, whether Generation Z, Millennials or Baby Boomers everyone wants to get their hands-on VR devices and explore the virtual worlds.
During the VRL off-season, zGetsu has also organized community tournaments for The Unspoken and he has considered branching into some of his other favorite VR games, but for now he has been hosting Brass Tactics Sunday Singles every three weeks.
One of the advantages of community tournaments – particularly those with lower attendance – is that players can generally come to a consensus when there are decisions to be made.
“I enjoy being able to play with house rules,” explains zGetsu. “Top players tend to agree on what’s broken in the meta, which makes it easy to ban imbalanced maps or units.”
He also shares how the community tournaments allow him the freedom and opportunity to make adjustments that make the competitive experience more enjoyable for participants.
“I’m currently exploring ways to make the events friendly for both casual and experienced players while remaining aware of time concerns. I hope to find a balance that appeals to all players interested in competitive play.”
When active members play the games frequently, organize community tournaments, and gather feedback from others, ultimately they’re improving the overall gaming experience as game developers discover that there are problems with certain maps or even particular aspects of competitive play.
Virtual reality can be used to simulate a number of experiences and enhance them.
Community tournament organizers also pay attention to trends and try to adjust accordingly. With that in mind, zGetsu says he plans “on trying an amateur bracket where the top four advance to play the top four sign ups from ranked play.” This gives the amateurs an opportunity to compete in their own bracket before facing the more advanced opponents.
Encouraging Growth in VR Communities
Esports is already a booming industry and VR esports is just getting started, but if we’ve learned one thing already it’s the fact that virtual reality is bringing people together in unexpected ways.
There seems to be an emphasis on helping new players rather than stomping them, encouraging rather than insulting, and promoting growth rather than an attitude of disregard. This can be seen in through community-initiated groups such as Echo UniVRsity and the Onward Rookie Boot Camp , both of which provide mentors, training, and encouragement for newer players who are interested in competitive gaming.
The positive aspects of VR gaming and esports can be seen through community tournaments, which encourage friendly competition, personal growth, and improved skill in the games.
If you’re interested in organizing a community tournament for your favorite game, check out this article with tips for organizing a successful VR gaming community tournament!
U.S. military makes use of VR to train soldiers. The simulated Virtual world provide opportunities for teams to work together to prepare them for the chaos of combat.