Man…you know what I didn’t think was possible? For me to fall in love with a city…twice. Yes Austin, I’m talking about you. From the not-as-hectic-yet-bustling downtown area to the quaint surrounding suburbia, I’m smitten. I just might be okay with the gross amount of humidity for all the coolness that radiates from that jewel of the Southwest. Can’t say enough good things about the city honestly, but I’ll leave that for part 2 and part 3.
This past weekend I had the pleasure and opportunity of attending Dreamhack Austin, the second go-round in the US for the EU exclusive LAN/e-sport/Expo extravaganza. Last year was pretty dope, but they definitely took some lessons from the first attempt. Instead of two floors, they consolidated the whole event to the first floor of the Austin Convention Center. Initially I thought that was a lame design choice, but then I recalled how many times I actually went up stairs last year…like three or four times. And a lot of the other events and booth were pretty much isolated with that setup. So having everything on the same floor worked out pretty well overall.
But yeah, this year was interesting for a multitude of reasons. Chief among them being that my best friend ended up scoring us (me, him, and his girlfriend) VIP passes through a random email in inquiry of some business partnerships. Crazy what happens when chances are taken. So we went from peasants to posh. And with the VIP pass comes exclusivity to some networking events, behind the scenes stuff, and other amenities. The vendor booths this year were kind of lacking, but they were also better quality. It didn’t feel like a shady bazaar like last year with all of the shops shoved into a corner. Some choice merchandise, but nothing really worth buying (for me anyway). Though I did see people with shirts that said “Shiiiiet” with random poorly drawn animals on the front. Amazing.
The e-sports tourneys were hype per usual and there was plenty to win/do on the show floor. My best friend won a new motherboard ($240 value) from putting on and taking off shirts. It was pretty damn comedic. All those mornings being late for work actually paid off. Apparently Gigabyte is branching off in the “gaming branding” direction with Aorous. I love Gigabyte so I’ll prolly keep my eye on them. VR was very strong this year which kind of highlights the prominence of it as an emerging medium. Still much too high of a barrier of entry for most consumers, but I give it five years before we start seeing them everywhere. I’ll be playing the FPS games mainly. On some Neo and the Matrix shit.
I can go on about the actual expo, but I want to highlight the level of unpreparedness I experienced as a VIP that didn’t know he was going to be VIP. So Saturday morning there was to be a meet and greet/invitational mixer for everyone on the list. They claim breakfast would be served there. Awesome. So my poorly-time-adjusted-ass is at this event at 9am looking at this setup that doesn’t have anything breakfast related in it. Pastries (they were amazing), fruit, and coffee doesn’t really constitute breakfast for me, but fuck it, it’s free and I’m hungry. So casual me is hovering around the pastries and debating on scumbagging my friend’s girlfriend by taking the rest of the orange juice, but I decide to be chivalrous for once. I leave about 20% of the jug. I’m still half asleep and notice there’s a bunch of merchandise bags on the chairs. Pretty cool of them. I grab a couple and I’m realizing as I’m typing this that I didn’t get a bag for myself (well in terms of intention). So I secure some goods for my sis and a certain someone that probably doesn’t deserve one now (long story).
We’re standing around talking among ourselves, as is everyone else around us. Then some guy who I imagined was a trucker in a past life came up and introduced himself. He worked in sports representation and was looking to get into the e-sports biz because player representation in e-sports is virtually non-existent. And as a former (semi) pro gamer I know all too well how some people got taken advantage of. So we all had a nice chat about that. So the presentation starts and it’s pretty run of the mill; basic metrics, slides on goals and stuff. The part that killed me was that the dude doing the presentation had the thickest acccent. So I’m sitting here with half a functioning brain wondering why the fuck they thought it was a stellar idea to have the only person in the room from the EU head the whole thing. I run out of OJ and bear claws so now I have to pay attention. Oh, not to mention our contact was such a MILF, dear lord. I mean she prolly wasn’t that old, but I don’t think I’ve seen such a short stack cutie like her in a while. But I saw she had a ring with some serious diamond action going on. Turns out she’s not married though she does have a boyfriend. So no chance for dis guy.
Anyway, the presentation finally ends and I hear myself borderline snoring. The CEO of Dreamhack comes in and then fields questions. Most of which were stupid and asinine. My friend was the only one asking the hard questions that warranted some real thought instead of the softball PR bullshit. So after that we get some behind the scenes action and it was really cool to see the production on the Twitch platforms. A lot of work goes into those overlays, camera work, and generally setting up the platform to make things go smoothly. Mad respect. After the tour and some grub, I find myself stuck in a pseudo college level seminar about e-sports. I had the itis something serious so again, I’m falling asleep. Plus nerds are not entertaining after a while. I mean it was enlightening to learn and hear about differing points of view when it comes to the medium so I can’t be too facetious.
Networking ensues and I’m standing around, kind of awkwardly, hoping nobody interacts with me. I was fine getting my ear hustling on and gathering some valuable info. I guess it was cool that there were three other black dudes in the room as we were all the alternative to the stereotype. One guy worked at Microsoft, another was a caster/internet personality, and the last worked in business development for a proprietary company that creates overlays for Twitch streams. Really nice guys. But yeah I felt so out of place and inadequate, it wasn’t even funny. I did play the field though and came out with like 9 business cards. Slightly kicking myself for not leaving mine in the jacket I took to Austin. Honorable mention to the guy with the most uncomfortable laugh I’ve ever heard. I can only describe it as the moment when I put in headphones and the music is at 100% which startles me. Except I can’t turn it down and it happens every other song. I mean he was a founder of some startup so I couldn’t be too mean, but goddamn.
Overall the trip was beyond my wildest expectations of a vacation turned business venture, but I’ll definitely take it. Especially if I’m tryna get over to Austin for some of that good living. I love LA, but I don’t think I can truly take off here. The 90s were 20 years ago when the economy wasn’t trash, the president wasn’t an orange crybaby, and jobs were literally falling from the sky. Anyway, Dreamhack was amazing, Austin is amazing, and being amongst my nerd brethren always feels good. Well except the ones that don’t believe in deodorant. Seriously, what the hell?