Photos by Murilo Madeo
Rising British/Irish caster and writer Freddie ‘GrimyRannarr’ Pritchard headed to Ireland’s GamerFest recently to cover its esports tournaments for Esports News UK, but somehow ended up hosting one of them in the process.
In this feature, Freddie writes all about the esports activities at GamerFest and what happened in the Rainbow Six finals in particular.
GamerFest is a gaming and esports event that took place in Dublin a few weeks ago, which saw four esports finals played out on stage. FIFA, Valorant, Rocket League and Rainbow Six Siege. It saw some solid Irish and UK players battling it out for money and even qualification spots, like the returning Rainbow Six Siege UK Ireland Nationals (UKIN).
On the face of this, GamerFest is huge for Irish esports as it’s the first proper big LAN after coming back from covid and it also had some really top names attending such as Mitch “MitchMan” McBride who casted the Valorant finals alongside Jack “JackIgoe” Igoe. This brings such a fundamental level of professionalism into the Irish scene, as well as exposure, which is very vital for this growing community.
The Irish esports scene is by far probably in the best place it has ever been, as we see two main organisations popping up, Nativz (who recently promoted to Division 1 of the League of Legends NLC) and Wylde (who announced plans for an esports academy), which is mandatory for the scene to progress.
So with all this in mind, we have a growing region, multiple esports finals played on stage in front of a crowd, big personalities attending, and for the players, it would for many provide their first experiences at LAN, therefore, this sounds like it should be a huge success… sadly that was not necessarily the case.
The schedule for the tournament saw FIFA running first on Saturday at GamerFest, then Valorant.
What happened at the GamerFest Valorant finals?
Nativz played against Irish Mix for the chance to win €500 and almost 350 beacon points. Nativz were the heavy favourites in this, as they have been competing at a decent level as a core for quite some time, notably coming second in the Beacon Open Split 1: Finals – Division 2.
The Irish squad had this opportunity to use GamerFest to rocket themselves up the rankings, but on the morning of the finals, Bopper their main support player got covid, so Karokis had to step in at the last minute. This, in conjunction with Tempo having an unreal performance, granted Irish Mix a decisive 2-0 victory.
You would assume that this squad would be quite happy about winning, but it felt the opposite of that. The win was eclipsed by the poor setup.
In an interview I did after with Valorant player Conor “mcnuggets” McCool, he said this was probably the worst LAN he has ever played at, because of the setup and also the lack of prize money, and that he actually felt bad for the Nativz boys because this was their first LAN and he said it was an awful first experience.
Mcnuggets also spoke about how he was getting denied trials because of his name, but as a player that has been ranked number one in Europe multiple times before, we should be seeing this Irish player back on big teams soon.
Back to the point, it’s a problem that I also noticed with i69 when I attended this summer. Organisers seemed to brand it as a gaming event, which they distinguished from an esports event. Fundamentally I really just cannot understand how you can have the biggest LAN finals for your country at an event, and not class it as an esports event. Because of this, you see a lot of oversight in regard to the competitive side, and a good place to start would be the stage setup itself. [Editor’s note – to be fair Insomnia does acknowledge the esports side of things in its LAN hall, but it does refer to the event as a gaming event in general]
Stage setup woes and other issues
The stage was fairly small which meant the setup for the players was a bit scuffed. For events like R6 and Valorant, they had three players in front and then two behind which just felt unnatural for starters to both viewers and players. Alongside this, the sound levels for the commentators were really loud, which meant that firstly for some viewers in the crowd it was uncomfortable to listen to, and secondly the players couldn’t hear their teammates.
I had the chance to speak to some of the players and everyone said that they couldn’t even hear footsteps unless it was directly in front of them, for example. Another weird feature was they put a loose cloth over the tables, so when the players put their mousepads down, the mousepads would not properly stick to the cloth, and the lighter mousepads would just fly around the table.
On stage, the PCs were great at least, so that was good.
However, the curved monitors on stage were 144hz and in my opinion not tournament standard at all. One monitor, on occasion, just flickered between different brightnesses. I have never seen a monitor do this before but I stood behind one of the players and the monitor would literally flicker between brightnesses when they moved the mouse, so it looked like there was some kind of one-off fault. It would’ve been nice to see some 360hz monitors instead.
There also wasn’t an observer, but Nativz content creator Ian “satorlad” Ferguson volunteered to observe both Valorant and R6.
All of these issues can just cast a shadow over the event, in my opinion. But they are small issues and I hope can be fixed for future events.
Anyway, to get onto the title of this article, how did I become the host for the R6 finals?
Rocket League, Rainbow Six, and going from reporter to host
On the second day of GamerFest, there was Rocket League in the morning and then R6 in the evening (both of which had no observer hired – though bear in mind many grassroots live events don’t have observers). In Rocket League, Up To No Good beat Wambojohn 4-0, with the winning team consisting of Irish players Shane, Jxffa and Littledude37, and the runners-up consisting of Pandaa, Lynsk and Tomster.
When I was waiting and chatting to the casters minutes before the 2pm start time, one of the admins came up to me and asked if I could host, because someone had said I could.
Bear in mind I have never watched a game of R6 in my life, I have never played the game and at first, had five minutes to prepare, this seemed like quite bad planning from them. Luckily for me, they didn’t have the game downloaded on the PC so I was granted some extra time, and yes you read that correctly, they didn’t have R6 downloaded on the PC five minutes before the finals were supposed to start.
Luckily I had a little extra time then, and massive thanks to Darren “Gibson” Gibson and Dylan “Whippet” Maguire who cast the event and gave me a quick crash course on everything. This was by far the biggest event of the weekend, with a €3,000 prize pool and whoever winning getting a spot in UKIN 2023, a UK and Ireland tournament that offers a path to higher level tournaments in Europe. It was Lucendi facing against Viridis Galea.
This was the first time I have ever hosted, I have no real experience in hosting apart from casting, which is my main occupation, and then doing content bits on camera. To be hosting in front of 300 people or so was pretty scary, but I honestly loved the experience and it has showed me that I may look into doing more esports hosting work in the future.
The game started quite late, just before 3pm, because after the games had finally been installed, one of the players, King, who was flying in from England for this event, had his flight delayed so arrived at around 2:30pm. King instantly got on stage to play straight away, further adding to this crazy story.
The ironic thing is that he actually played incredibly well on map 1 which spurred Viridis Galea on to a 2-0 victory.
However, the story didn’t end there, and I was genuinely in disbelief around what happened next.
The event ended at 4pm, and while the game was being played, someone was on the loudspeaker saying that you have either exit the arena or watch the R6 finals, so the whole event was being packed up around us, and then on map two, when it was 5-5, THE VENUE TURNED OFF THE NETWORK.
Unbeknownst to the organisers, the venue literally turned off the ethernet and so the match just got completely halted mid round at the very end of a very close series. I vividly remember just sitting with production and everyone was just so confused, understandably so.
No one had any idea what was going on, and it was after 4pm when the event had officially ended, the connection went.
Eventually, it got resolved after a good half an hour and we were able to continue with the finals. The annoying thing was that this was the first time the whole weekend we actually had a really good game. Both maps went into overtime and even though it was a 2-0 sweep, there was genuinely good gameplay, but again like so many things it got masked by the long delays.
One silver lining is that the setup and the noise from the commentators got fixed, to an extent. In a post-match interview I did with Viridis’ player Ducky, he talked about how it didn’t feel that bad to play on stage, but that the day before it was almost unplayable. He did mention that it still wasn’t optimal and they ended up having to play super simple gameplay to counteract this and that overall they are actually really confident going into UKIN. He also specifically mentioned that he thought their team could win the whole event next year and qualify to the Northern Premier League.
In summary of GamerFest and lessons to be learned
One good thing about having such decent and experienced casters is that throughout all of this they were able to maintain a level of professionalism and honestly crushed it. We spoke about it after and we all agreed that if they had someone less experienced for the R6 finals, then it would have gone a lot worse as they wouldn’t be able to fill all the dead time, so at least that was a success.
After some time of reflection, it was testament to the community spirit at the event that everything went as smoothly as it did, with people like me for instance who were able to jump in at the last minute to help. There are so many people in this scene who want to see it flourish so let’s hope these issues can be overcome for future GamerFest events.
Irish esports is on the rise, we have more organisations investing, we have more players emerging, and with the new LAN it felt it would be the cherry on top, but I feel GamerFest 2022 could have been a bit better.
In the future I’d like to see GamerFest back but with these issues ironed out, and with the resources to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. In the past we have seen how important LAN’s are in the UK and how much they can develop a scene, but also the possible pitfalls. For example, iSeries caused numerous problems at the Insomnia 68 CSGO LAN.
Hopefully GamerFest can come back stronger next year as a genuinely well-organised LAN would be unreal for the Irish esports industry.