Saskatchewan’s biggest fair is diving into the world of Esports.
Queen City Ex will be hosting two competitive video game tournaments over the next few days as part of its events which run until Aug. 4.
Evraz Place, in partnership with Saskatchewan-based companies SKL Esports and Matrix Gaming, has organized the tournaments with a prize pool of $10,000.
“It’s the biggest prize pool I’ve ever heard of in the province,” said Matt Valgardson.
Valgardson is the host of the Nerdcore Cabaret, a community radio show featuring programming on video games.
According to Valgardson, the demand for local and regional gaming events is growing in the province – especially among teenagers and young adults.
“It really gets you into the action and into the thrill of the game,” Valgardson said.
Many are drawn-in by international gaming events like the Fornite World Cup.
The popular online first-person shooter game had its first-ever sporting event at New York City’s Arthur Ashe tennis stadium this month.
More than one million viewers tuned in to watch 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf win the grand prize of US$3-million — bigger than the Masters, Indy 500, and Wimbledon.
“It shows how they’re adapting as an event and reacting to what newer generations are in to,” Valgardson said.
Stages and screens for spectators at the QCX will be set-up for the tournaments being held in the International Trade Centre building.
“We try to make it as much as like going to a football game,” said Blake Zanidean, chief operations officer of SKL Esports. “This is technically our arena. We have commentators who do the play-by-play and other people will give the colour casting.”
More than 500 people, some travelling from as far as Utah, have registered to compete in the tournaments — making it the largest Esports event to date.
16-year-old Carter Graham of Regina has signed up to compete in the SmashFest 5 tournament.
“It’s just really good competition,” Graham said. “I’m super excited for the event.”
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Graham, better-known online as ‘Beezy,’ began playing the Nintendo game four years ago.
He’s currently ranked as the second-best player in the province.
“When this game first came out I played a lot every day,” Graham said. “I usually play about one or two hours a day, but when I’m playing with friends we play even more.”
Qualifiers for the Saskatchewan Fornite Championships will be held Thursday and Friday, the tournament playoffs will take place that evening from 5 to 8 p.m.
SmashFest 5 runs on Saturday and Sunday.