With eSports still in its relative infancy, the scene on our shores is usually described as ‘UK eSports’ – but can Scotland make a name for itself in its own right?
In terms of video games, the country is already on the map – Edinburgh is home of Rockstar North, developers of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto series.
When it comes to competitive gaming, Scotland has produced a few notable eSports professionals, namely Call of Duty pro Mark Bryceland and retired League of Legends player Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis (who we spoke to about eSports careers and retirement last year).
Lesser-known Scottish PES player Mark Gardiner also won £50,000 in a PES Rankings tournament at Wembley back in 2008.
This week, we interviewed up and coming Scottish support player Euan Ratley (GLB Ratley), from Gaben Laser Beam’s League of Legends team, about the Scottish League scene in general and how of an inspiration Snoopeh is.
“The Scottish scene is literally nonexistent,” he said. “There’s like a couple of players that are Scottish. I think it’s a shame the UK scene is pretty much entirely English – there are a couple of Welsh players, and obviously Ireland has its own little scene as well.
“But I’d obviously like to see more Scottish players and I think Snoopeh is a great influence for me, seeing him do quite well from where he was. But Scotland is pretty dead for eSports.
“I used to play Call of Duty semi-professionally and there was only one LAN up here I went to, and it was literally a very ‘ghetto’ LAN. It was quite the experience! I’d like to see it change.”
To get a more accurate picture of eSports in Scotland, we also asked members of the League of Legends Scotland Community Facebook page.
Nik Topham was quick to point out that the Scottish eSports scene is set to grow in 2016, with Resonate Total Gaming hosting a three-day LAN gaming festival in Glasgow’s SECC from July 29th. It will feature an eSports tournament hosted by Gfinity.
Then there’s 4theGamers in Aberdeen – a gaming expo featuring several tournaments including CSGO, Halo, Street Fighter, HearthStone, Call of Duty, FIFA, Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends.
“Otherwise,” Nik admits, “we’re mostly a community event type of community. Stuff like the free play area at Scotland Comiccon and University eSports societies. Then there’s viewing parties for various events and the Super Mega for the [League of Legends] Worlds Finals.”
David Davidson added: “The only thing missing is a suitable venue like Manchester is building for LAN party’s games wars – that could hold so much potential.”
Andrew Fowler agrees with the community focus: “The in-client [League of Legends] Scotland chat is always buzzing with tons of people!”
Then, of course, there’s Multiplay Insomnia’s first Scotland-based show taking place in 2016 too – Scotland’s largest gaming event.
Insomnia Scotland will take place between April 29th and May 1st at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, hosting some 14,000 fans. Multiplay will also host Insomnia Ireland between June 10th and June 12th at the Killarney Convention Centre, with space for 5,000 visitors.
MCM’s Scotland Comic Con will also take place from September 24th to 25th 2016 at the SECC in Glasgow.
Game Expo Scotland is a new consumer show kicking off on October 4th, which will also have its own eSports zone.
Elsewhere, there’s the fifth Hypespotting fighting game tournament taking place in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel on April 2nd and 3rd. That will feature double elimination tournaments in Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros, Mortal Kombat X and more.
“Hypespotting has become the largest fighting game community event in the UK,” claim organisers, “a position which could not have been achieved without the amazing support and interaction of the community.”
It also boasts a Hypespotting pub quiz which has become popular with the community.
So, like England, Scotland has its fair share of gaming events that are only getting bigger – and there are more on the horizon for 2016.
As eSports slowly seeps its way into Scottish culture, we will no doubt see the next-generation of Scottish pro gamers emerge over the coming years.
Image credit: FreeImages.com/Alistair Williamson
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League of Legends and World of Warcraft player, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association and runs ENUK in his spare time.