Grassroots Esports – Overwatch Chicago

Starting any project from nothing is always challenging and a grassroots esports scene is no different. Many competitive players are passionate about their favorite games and love the opportunity to meet other local players and compete with one another. Esports at a global level has been booming, making now more than ever a great time to be involved in your favorite game’s local growth!

While it may sound easy to toss up a prize pool and charge admission, getting players to actually enter into your events is a fairly intense process. Luckily, the team at Overwatch Chicago is going to walk you through the major steps that any aspiring esports organization should take to becoming a staple in their local community.


Brandon and Justin Gorson, the brothers behind Overwatch Chicago.

Starting Up

Before you start reaching out to your friends for help or put up that Facebook event, you will need to have a crystal clear vision of  how you want your event/organization to look. It isn’t enough to put together a bracket and hope that players will sign up. As anyone who has participated in amateur competitive events likely knows, they tend to be highly disorganized and chaotic. You should never assume that a participant will ‘figure it out’ or that they will read your email fully or your messages.


Organizing teams for the next round of matches at the Overwatch Summer Meltdown. – June 17′

You can set yourself apart from other communities very quickly if you have a clear and simple message about what you are, what you are doing and how you expect players to participate in the activity. It is extremely helpful to just start small. If your preferred game can only support local community gatherings, just do that! Don’t try to organize the country’s biggest tournament before you’ve built a foundation.


If you’re just getting into organizing your local esports scene, it can be scary to put yourself out there and potentially have zero interest and your event never takes off. Being smart and focused on how you advertise is extremely important early on.

It’s important to reach out directly to the players. We talked to people in game, in Subreddits, on forums, pretty much anywhere that we could find players that might be interested in our event. Being active on social media daily also communicates to your early followers that you are up to something and that you exist! If your Twitter and Facebook have no information or relevant content, people will be less likely to check-in on what you are up to.


2nd place team for the Lower Division of the Summer Meltdown sporting their freshly pressed Overwatch Chicago tees.

Marketing will cost some money. Utilizing things like Facebook ads was immensely helpful for our organization. It is important that you view your new esports scene more as a business and less like a hobby, so keep track of your costs and revenue.


Overwatch Chicago League Champions making making their way to the “Wall of Champions” plaque.

The Player Experience

So now you have a clear vision and design for your event and you’ve managed to get enough participants to sign up. Now it is time for the execution of it all. A ‘dry-run’ of the event is strongly recommended for anyone who does not have event running experience. Making sure you have everything ready from pens and tape to updated computers/games is very important. Missing any one of these things can completely throw off the experience. Players need to know the moment they step into your event that their experience is the highest priority for your organization.  You want to them really feel like they’re investment was more than worth it.


Players in the heat of the action during Season 1 of the Overwatch Chicago League.

Throughout the experience you should be asking yourself “If I was at this event, would I be having fun?” If at any point the answer to that question is ‘no’, you need to change something! Developing your grassroots esports scene relies heavily on the early adopters who took a risk by attending your event. In most cases, players can compete and play against people from the comforts of their homes, so you need to provide a reason for them to show up. A community with lasting strength is built on the excitement of the events and intangible rewards that everyone receives by being a part of it!


Season 4 Champions gleaming in their victory.

The world of grassroots esports can always use more heroes. So we’re hoping that you found some of this information useful and are inspired to provide awesome esports experiences for your local scene or game.

Who we are.

The founders, Justin and Brandon, grew up together playing video games their entire lives. Their gaming ranged across most every console and onto the PC. Both have an extensive history of competition in both video games and real life. As esports became more popular, the competition in video gaming became more serious and a major passion in both of their lives. Notable games for them include: Starcraft, Counter-Strike, Warcraft, Unreal Tournament, Street Fighter and Smash Melee.

What Overwatch Chicago is.

Overwatch Chicago is an amateur, in-person, Overwatch league in Chicago. We specialize in two different types of events, Leagues and Tournaments. The League event is a month long Season, consisting of organized teams that are balanced to promote even matchups throughout the season. Players compete weekly and although competitive in nature we strive for a fun and social environment. Our tournament events span across single or multiple days with pre-made teams competing for large prize pools.

You can find us online here:

Want to Participate?

Join us for our next tournament on January, 21st, 2018 – The Overwatch Chicago Winter Freeze Up!24799257_1527704933933365_8178752052521297798_o

 Info and Registration HERE.

Fighting Game Meetups

There are some big changes coming to Mix-Up Mondays at Ignite Gaming Lounge!

For starters, we’re dropping the name ‘Mix-up Mondays’ to adopt Fighting Game Community Meetups or FGC Meetups for short.

We’re rebranding for several reasons:
  1. The fighting game scene is constantly evolving by adding new games and dropping old ones. We want to include EVERY fighting game into our community now, and later and we feel like Mix-up Mondays did not get that across clearly.
  2. We want to prepare the community for our second home in Skokie. We see the FGC Meetups expanding to multiple days across multiple venues and sticking to a name that had the word ‘Mondays’ in it doesn’t quite work with that vision in mind.
  3. Literally, no one called it Mix-up Mondays when they purchased their venue fees.

Next up, we’re going to be providing more systems and games! That means SFV, Tekken 7, Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite will have systems ready for you every Monday. We’ll keep these systems up-to-date with new games and DLC regularly so you don’t have to lug your setups out anymore.

You’re still encouraged to bring setups for consoles/games that Ignite isn’t providing (space will be limited), but we will be effectively discontinuing the system discount on Monday, September 25th, 2017. All venue fees will now be a flat $10.

” Oww man, that’s some bullsh-”

Worry not CFGC! Although we are increasing our price at the door, we’re creating new ways for you to continue to save some dough. Introducing our new monthly subscriptions – get access to FGC Meetups for just $20 a month.

That’s just $5 bucks a week, without having to bring a setup! The subscription is simple. Sign up in 5 minutes, you’ll be automatically billed every 30 days, and you can cancel at any time. Once subscribed, check-in at the service desk every Monday and you’re good to go.

To get more info or subscribe visit:
You can also get more info and register on-site.

And the last couple of changes to the FGC Meetups – our check-in process will now include getting a wristband to verify your venue fee purchase or valid subscription. So please make sure to touch in at the service desk as soon as you arrive. We will also be providing extra monitors in the private room and maximizing the space to allow BYO monitors and full setups. On top of these changes we’ll be having more events for more games to make sure that we include everyone that is coming out and supporting (That can even mean you Injustice players). We’ve been so happy to see the FGC at Ignite grow and prosper, and I hope that with these changes we’ll see even more of that.
To kick-off the new changes we’re going to be doing a launch event on Monday, September 25th featuring:
  • Tournaments for Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, and Tekken 7
  • Free grub

Join us for a launch event with tournaments and free grub on Monday, September 25th!

Join the Chicago Fighting Game Community on Facebook to connect with players, see upcoming events, or talk smack about an imbalanced character.


CFGC Facebook Group


We’ve been the home to Chicago’s Fighting Game Community since 2012? Check out this throwback video of me losing a ton.


A Letter About Our Increased Prices

Hey Igniters.

On November 16th, our rates are increasing by a buck or two across the board. It’s been a long while since we’ve adjusted our prices and we’ve always tried to keep them super reasonable, but alas, they must go up. We’re proud of some of the things we were able to do for you and still keep our prices low.

In 2012, we relocated into a new building 3x the size and filled it with 3x the equipment to fit 3x the gamers.

Out with the old, in with the new. (Ignite Nov. 2012)

Out with the old, in with the new. (Ignite Nov. 2012)

Between 2013 and 2014, we brought on the premium.

Office Max chairs just weren't going to cut it anymore.

Office chairs and square monitors just weren’t cutting it anymore.

  • Upgraded to SteelSeries award winning gear. Apex Keyboards, Siberia 200 Headsets, and Rival 300 mice on every station.
  • Rolled in the comfiest DXRacer chairs.
  • Upgraded to 24″ widescreen monitors.
  • Loaded in a blazing fast fiber optic internet line to bring you the lowest ping, consistently.
  • Beefed up our computers with new hardware to play the most graphic intensive games.

In 2015, we embraced the next-gen. Loaded in Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U consoles with our largest digital game library to-date and built a digital browser for you to stay up to date with the latest added games.

Over 80 games across all platforms.

Over 80 games across all platforms.

Oh, and then there is all that other real life stuff: inflation, minimum wage increase, yadda yadda.

We were able to do all that while continuously delivering a killer guest experience. The personal, caring, and friendly touch we love to offer each of you during every visit. Igniter Jorge R. puts our approach to customer service best, “Honestly the customer service here is way above the normal expectation of any human being.” 

Let’s not be mistaken though. We’re here because of your hard earned dollars, your support, and your faith in us and our service. We are able to do what we love, all thanks to you. We hope that buck or two later you still find yourself saying “Lets hit up ignite!”.

How our price increase will look.

  • 1 Hour for $7 – $2 Increase
  • 3 Hours for $15 – $3 Increase
  • 5  Hours for $20 – $1 Increase
  • 8 Hours for $25 – Unaffected
  • First Blood – 2 Hours / $8 – $2 Increase
  • Unlimited Pass for  $15 – Unaffected pricing but no longer available on Friday and Saturday
  • $4 Tuesdays – $1 Increase


How To Rectify All The Crap You Do As A Gamer

Video games are an undeniable part of many of our lives, as is the negativity that frequently tags along – the addiction, grumpiness, caffeine, and general lack of sun. If you’re like me, you might find yourself experiencing some guilt when you over-indulge. You could be a real member of society if you didn’t spend 8 hours last night getting flashbanged by teammates.

If I had spent this much time doing something constructive...

If I had spent this much time doing something constructive…

As it turns out, being a gamer and also a contributing member of society are not mutually exclusive. I’ve taken the liberty of listing some ways you can do both:

  • Strive to be a decent person both in and out of game. Staying positive in the midst of the negativity of others will greatly benefit both you and those around you. In the moment, it may feel rewarding or completely justified to react negatively to someone who is feeding, raging, or otherwise, but you should go on to play your best and ignore the person who is definitely having a worse day than you.


  • Next time you’re in a game, compliment someone – you never know if you’ll be making someone’s day by recognizing them. Or, try to turn a bad situation into a humorous one. Do anything except help fuel the negativity that we so often come across.


  • For many of us, staying positive is hard, and we won’t always do it. Fortunately, there’s more ways to rectify our consciences. Consider gaming for unhealthy amounts of time in order to raise money for charity! Extra Life encourages participants to game nonstop for 24 hours to raise money for local hospitals. I held my first marathon last year and it was incredibly fun – a dining room table stocked with alcohol, Red Bull, and a game-filled Steam library. With help from donors, we powered through all 24 hours and ended our Twitch marathon donating $2,275 to the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Nationally, Extra Life has raised over $14 million dollars for hospitals and is growing larger each year!
Don't play games and you're literally killing kids.

Don’t play games and you’re literally killing kids.

  • Recognize when good things are happening in your backyard! From May 25th – June 1st, Ignite Gaming Lounge will be donating 25% of their package sales to their own Extra Life campaign. If you can’t be bothered by any of the suggestions above, take the opportunity to stop by and stock up on hours and get your gaming fix.


Playing games is a largely self-serving activity and is associated with a lot of negativity, but that shouldn’t prevent you from giving back. There’s no better time to do something positive and feel great about it.


Megan Thaler is an avid PC gamer who helps represent Extra Life Chicago. A former cook and musician who found her niche in gaming, she believes in enacting a positive influence on communities and supporting charitable causes. You can find her on Twitch (Silvare), Instagram (Silvare_VoidRay), and Twitter (@SilvareVoidRay).

INTERVIEW: Video Game Writers

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to make a video game? I know I have, so when I made friends with some guys who wrote for the Double Fine Productions Kickstarter game, MASSIVE CHALICE, I had to ask them some questions! Here are some insights from my interview:

Alisha: Alright guys, first question: Who are you, who do you work for, and what do you do?

Nick & Max: We are Nick and Max Folkman! We worked for Double Fine Productions as writers on their game MASSIVE CHALICE.

How did you get into working for Double Fine Productions? What was the audition/interview process like?

We were given a writing test that consisted of a few different things. It asked us what we thought the tone of the game should be and what other media we thought had a similar feel to that tone. Then it gave us a template for a random event (a text-based event that involves at least one of the heroes you’re managing and you making a choice that will affect the gameplay in some way, like a hero dying or your research speed doubling) with some factors already set (two choices, each with two outcomes each, etc.) that we had to then complete. After that we had to make up our own random event completely from scratch, and after that write a short dialogue exchange between the two halves of the Chalice about a situation that just occurred in the game. Finally, we had to name and describe an item based on the effects it would have on a hero. When we were finished with all of that, we sent it off, waited a bit, had an interview where we talked about the test, and were offered the job!

Woo! How did you start writing? What’s the first step in the game writing process?

We were brought in about a year after development started, so they already had some stuff set up like the Chalice itself, how the game began and ended gameplay-wise, what the enemies were, etc. We spent a while doing world-building, which meant deciding the back story for the world, what the Chalice was all about, who/what the Cadence (the enemy of the game) is, who are the people who live in the nation, naming the different regions, what the citizens do in their daily lives, methods of transportation, etc. Once all that was decided, we moved on to writing dialogue for the two Chalice characters, all of the random events, and finished with naming items and weapons along with writing their descriptions.

As for the first thing writers must do in the game writing process, there’s no one answer! It really depends on when the writer is brought on and what is required of him/her. Some writers are brought on in the very beginning and help develop gameplay/level design/etc. with all of the other departments, and others are brought on towards the end when everything has been decided and they have to connect it all together through the script or just write dialogue for the NPCs (Non-player characters) or what have you. The writer’s responsibilities can be very broad or very narrow, it all depends on the job. In general though, the only thing that’s common is that a writer should always be thinking about how their writing can complement the gameplay and not run against it.

A screen shot from MASSIVE CHALICE. Here we see some of the brothers' work!

A screen shot from MASSIVE CHALICE. Here we see some of the brothers’ work!

Did you have any involvement with any other parts of the game development process? (work with artists, actors, casting, etc.)

The only other parts we were involved with were casting and the recording sessions. When the auditions came in, we gave our input on who we liked best, as did the rest of the team, and Brad Muir (our boss) made his decision based on that. Then, since the recording sessions were near us in LA, we sat in and helped Khris Brown, our amazing casting and voice-over director, understand what was going on in our script when working with the actors.

What was your favorite part of the process? What was the most difficult?
Nick: The world building. It’s stressful because barely anything has been set in stone and there’s a deadline constantly over you, but it’s so much fun when you’re just bouncing ideas back and forth about stuff: like what the ending can be, how to tie in the themes, why is that Chalice so ridiculously huge, and so on. The most difficult thing… Names. Oh my god there were so many meetings about the names for the enemies, regions, and classes that we’d even bring in the whole team at some points so we could all brainstorm at the same time. Item and weapon descriptions would be a close second. The stuff that you assume would be the easiest always turns out to be the opposite.

Max: My favorite part was the puzzle aspect of trying to integrate the writing with gameplay as much as possible. For instance, apart from the opening cut scene, we never really see the citizens of this nation you’re in charge of. How do we build empathy for them and make their presence felt within the actual gameplay, while also minimizing the amount of extra work for everyone else in the process? Our solution was the random events, which ended up being the answer to a lot of these sorts of questions, so for as many events as we could we would use the problems your heroes were involved in to build a relationship with these citizens and regions of your nation.
The most difficult part was writing dialogue for the combat moments that could repeat possibly hundreds of times during an entire game. The Female and Male Chalice are our only fully voiced characters in the game (besides the grunts and cries of the heroes), so when a hero lands a critical strike against an enemy, we have to write a piece of dialogue that ideally: is short enough to be repeatable without boring the player and gets the character’s voice across. This is really hard! The answer we found was, if you can do both then great, but if not then try to nail one of them. Having talented voice actors also helps immeasurably, as they can lend their own special bit of magic that can elevate even the most generic-sounding of dialogue.

That chalice really is ridiculously huge...

That chalice really is ridiculously huge! I like it.

How involved are the writers once the game is released?
We’ve been pretty much finished since the game came out on Early Access, but every now and then we help out with touch-ups and small stuff like the descriptions for the Steam cards. If the game does well when it’s fully released though, who knows! 😀

We mentioned Double Fine Productions in our previous blog about Kickstarter! Check out MASSIVE CHALICE and help DFP get the game ready for a full release!

We mentioned Double Fine Productions in our recent post about Kickstarter! Check out MASSIVE CHALICE and help DFP get the game ready for a full release!

What’s next for the game? What’s next for you?!
The game’s still getting balanced while it’s in Early Access, we actually just put out a big patch last week, and getting ready for a full release on PC/Mac/Linux/Xbox One very soon! As for us, nothing announceable yet, but we’re keeping busy!

How did you get into writing for video games as a whole, not just for MASSIVE CHALICE?
This was actually our first experience writing for video games ever (we had been and still are focused on screenwriting for film and TV). The way we got MASSIVE CHALICE is the way a lot of jobs happen in the entertainment industry, we were at the right place at the right time. Early last year we were visiting Brad in San Francisco when he told us that they were looking at writers for the game and that we should apply. We got the application and that was that.

Do you have any advice for anyone who may want to get involved in any part of game development? For anyone who wants to be a writer?
We can answer both at the same time: Make stuff and go to events. Whether you wanna be a game designer/programmer/writer/etc., you have to just start making stuff. Don’t worry about it being bad because everyone’s first work/draft/version, is bad. The important thing is that it’s just going to get better the more you work on it. If you don’t know where to start, the internet is an amazing resource for tips, tutorials, and finding people to ask for help. And that leads to events. There are tons out there like Indiecade, PAX, and GDC where you can meet tons of amazing people who are starting out, super experienced, and everything in between. Besides the inspirational value, events like those are fantastic for learning more about the advances in the industry and for building connections that could lead to future work.
Just remember the golden rule: don’t be a dick.

Our interviewees! Nick & Max Folkman, writers for Double Fine Productions. Definitely not dicks. :)

Our interviewees! Nick & Max Folkman, writers for Double Fine Productions. Definitely not dicks. 🙂

Nick and Max write words for film, TV, and video games, and since they live in Los Angeles, they also direct stuff on occasion as well. They believe Speed Racer is one of the greatest films ever made and are eagerly awaiting the next game in the Gex franchise. Follow the brothers on twitter! @twinmadefilms & @maxfolkmax.

Have any questions for Nick & Max? Interested in another aspect of video game making? Comment below and we’ll make sure the brothers see your questions and we continue to bring you material you love!


A New Direction

DISCLAIMER: This was an April Fools joke. You can still play all of your favorite games at Ignite, all the time. 

Much like Zayn Malik of One Direction, we’ve decided to take our business in a new direction. As of April 2015, we are officially a League Only Lounge.


Since its release in 2009, League of Legends has had a profound impact on our company and as individuals. I for one have committed to this new chapter in our company by growing and maintaining an exact replica of Draven’s mustache.


We’ve taken every step to make sure that  League of Legends is at the core of all of our services and products. From the moment you step in you’ll be greeted by the same fun, helpful staff you’ve grown to love, except this time they’ll be clad in League of Legends attire.


Teemo Cassie and Kennen Matt hard at work.

Once seated, you won’t have to waste a minute of your time searching for the game we know you came to play.


A screenshot of our interface. Play a round or two of League of Legends then hop onto an action packed ranked game of League of Legends. Close out the evening with your friends in a game of…you guessed it, League of Legends.

Our most definitive addition to the League Only Lounge is taking the League of Legends experience and bringing it to life on the Xbox One. We worked tirelessly with a small software firm straight out of Bangladesh to let you play from the comfort of a couch.


Play League of Legends on Xbox One, exclusively at the League Only Lounge.


Once you’ve built up an appetite make your way to our Snack Bar where we’ve taken all of our menu items and cleverly renamed them, and thats it.

We are super excited to begin this new journey with you! Share your excitement in the comments below.

Don’t forget you can stay connected with the League Only Lounge on facebook, twitter, and instagram.


“League is love. League is life.” 

Crowd-funding the Underdog


At the moment I’m writing this, there are 185 live projects for video games on the popular crowd-funding site, Kickstarter. Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has seen more than eight million backers fund more than 81,000 projects with over $1.6 billion in the fields of film, music, art, fashion, and gaming. Crowd-funding has boosted the indie developer’s chances at producing top quality products through you: the passionate and supportive audience willing to shell out the dough to help the underdog give it their best shot (and often score some cool incentives). We’ve seen developers excel with the support of the people and deliver some outstanding games. However, crowd-funding can be unpredictable; many projects never come to fruition and the passionate, supportive audience is left thousands of dollars short and without the exciting gaming experience they were promised. Does the risk of giving money to an unfinished product, and many times to an unproven developer, negate the reward of a unique game? Can crowd-funding be an integral part of the gaming industry’s future?

Backing a Kickstarter project requires a lot of thought (unless you’re a gazillionaire which, by all means, support ALL THE THINGS. Take my college debt? No? That’s fair.) if you don’t want to squander your money. There are numerous questions to ask yourself before supporting: Who is the developer? Do they have a history with crowd-funding? Are they someone you trust to make a quality product? Does the developer have a strategic development plan for what they are going to do with your money? Are there any incentives for you to back them, other than receiving the product at a later date, which could be several years from now?If you’re planning on investing a good amount into a donation, these questions are very important. Based on data collected in 2014 for Kickstarter projects funded between 2009-2012, only 37% of the video game projects were fully funded and developed. During that time, $21.6 million was invested in projects that failed to deliver. Unless directly discussed by the developer and individual backers, none of that $21.6 million was refunded to the backers. Kickstarter doesn’t refund anything itself, so if the project you support ends up on the cutting room floor, so does your money. This is why you do your research before backing a game project. Once you know who they are, figure out what they plan to do with your money. Most developers will post at least a brief synopsis of what goes into making a game so you know what your money is going towards. This is good. Look for that transparency. If a developer seems like they’re not telling you everything, they’re probably not and you should take your money elsewhere. Take it somewhere where they tell you what’s going on and say, hey, give us $10 and we’ll give you a t-shirt, too. Be smart with your money not only so you don’t lose out on the cash, but so you can help the developers who have the know how to actually produce a quality game leave a positive mark on the gaming industry.

Chart from

For those of us who like our numbers in picture form. Chart from

For game developers, Kickstarter and other crowd-funding options like Indiegogo have given them the chance to create the projects that they have always dreamed of creating. As in most creative fields, the money to create these projects comes from large companies and producers. However, very often we will see these companies pass on projects that are too weird, too niche, not marketable. They have that right, since they will be the ones funding the entire production, but it unfortunately leaves the market saturated in the same five or six kinds of games. For game developers who have very small teams and/or unestablished careers, crowd-funding allows them to take their idea directly to the gamers, who can decide if the idea is good enough to warrant their hard-earned or parent-distributed cash. This not only allows developers to get around the hardship of finding funding from a major corporation, but also brings them closer to their audience, allowing for input and participation in the process. Crowd-funding isn’t only for the little guy. Chris Roberts, despite creating the very successful Wing Commander series, was turned away by everyone he took his new idea to because these companies were convinced the audience wasn’t out there, that “space sims are dead”. Roberts didn’t believe it and took his idea, “Star Citizen”, to Kickstarter. It’s success was immense, which I’ll touch on further in just a bit. Said Roberts, getting to make a game “without having EA looking over your shoulder, or Activision looking over your shoulder…it’s pretty awesome.” When developers are free to bring their ideas to the democratic system of crowd-funding, they often find their audience, and their audience is able to find them.

Now that you’ve funded a gaming project, you’re going to have to wait a while. Games don’t happen overnight. A game needs planning and then execution, which can take several years depending on the length and budget of the game. What happens in the meantime? Hopefully, the developer is extremely transparent with you. You are an investor now and you deserve to know what’s going on with your money. Double Fine Productions, an indie gaming company based in California, promised a documentary with their 2012 project, “Double Fine Adventure”. Double Fine came out with the idea that they wanted to create a point and click adventure game, but didn’t have an exact story in mind or planned yet; so, in lieu of a timeline expressing exactly what they’ll be doing with your money, they said your money will go towards our game and a documentary of the entire game development process; which I think is awesome (you can check out the documentary here). The documentary came out in full once the production was complete, but it was filmed in monthly chunks, given to backers to showcase the process. Double Fine’s transparency showed that they really care about the support and want you to know exactly what’s happening with your money. This helped them cross over into the millions again with their second Kickstarter last year for the recently released “Massive Chalice”. Another example of an amazing developer-backer relationship is the one for the highest grossing crowd-funded projects of all time, “Star Citizen”, a space simulator for PC. Cloud Imperium Games and Chris Roberts kickstarted their project and let backers support directly through their website. They made constant updates, stayed connected with backers and fans on gaming sites and forum sites like Reddit, and they added more incentives and stretch-goals as they made more money. As of the day of this posting, Cloud Imperium Gaming has raised over $76 million (only $2.1 of that was on Kickstarter). That’s seven times the budget of the original Star Wars. Their transparency let backers in on the nitty gritty details and it boosted their support and credibility. The same cannot be said for developers who don’t fully develop their projects. Sometimes, projects fail to reach their monetary goal and backers are left wondering where all their money went. Refunds don’t happen unless you harass the developer, but even then, they’ve probably already blown through your money on a project that’s sitting in numerous digital trash cans. I know I’d be less pissed if the developer kept me informed throughout the process and I knew that they didn’t blow my money on trips to Belize or those awesome Barbie/GI-Joe jeeps that I totally wanted but never got as a kid. I understand that “shit happens” and developing a game is hard, but if you keep me in the dark, I’m less likely to cut you some slack – or support your next project.

The project status for "Star Citizen" on their website:

The project status for “Star Citizen” on their website:

Crowd-funding is probably here to stay. The benefits for everyone involved are too important for us to see it diminish. When projects are completed, we are often given gems that never would have seen the light of day if not for the contributions of passionate gamers. I’ve donated to Kickstarters here and there and it’s a really great way to feel like I’m a part of the game development process, as I don’t have many abilities that would otherwise lend themselves to that kind of work. Crowd-funding can be a really fabulous way to bring indie games to the forefront of the gaming industry, if we all do our part. Developers need to keep us up to date and treat us like big name investors; we’ve given them our money and now they need to deliver. The relationship between developer and gamer can be rewarding for both and improve the process of game creation. I think the boost indie games have seen within the industry can only take us higher. Do your research, stay passionate, and stay supportive, like a great bra or a well-meaning mother.


Press F To Do The Thing (An Assessment of QTEs)

Last month, guest writer Tucker Poindexter got us thinking about the effects of film on video game storytelling. One of the points he brought up involved cinematics, or cut scenes, in games and how we as an audience want those scenes to enhance our gaming experience. It all came down to one thing: interconnectivity, or, how game developers get us to move from “a passive observer to an active participant.” One way in which developers get us to be active participants, is with Quick Time Events (QTEs). QTEs are context-based actions played by the gamer after receiving an on-screen prompt. There are lots of incredible QTEs that help the audience stay connected to the game, but lately we’ve been feeling a little let down. Are QTEs still here to keep us actively engaged or are they merely here to make game cinematics less passive?

Pay F to Be Super Lame. This is an example of a QTE.

Pay F to Be Super Lame. This is an example of a QTE…and it sucks.

From a developer’s perspective, I could see how QTEs are extremely valuable. QTEs allow players more control during major events and fight scenes that, in the past, would have delegated them to the sideline rather than having some control over the outcome. The player therefore doesn’t have to spend much time watching the character they have spent countless hours controlling do something without them. That being said, what is required of a QTE in order for a player to feel emotionally and mentally engaged? In “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”, there is a moment where the player is asked to “Press F to pay respects.” All this does -spoiler- is make your character walk over to a casket, place his hand on it for a moment, and then turn away. Is that really more engaging than not prompting the player, but instead letting them choose to go to the casket (or not)? On Reddit, users felt that on top of it being a pretty basic QTE, it also attempted to force them to feel a certain way – “Press X to feel sad”. Doesn’t that also take away from the “active participant”? Not only does the player not get to move naturally, but they don’t get to feel naturally either. In “The Walking Dead” there is a moment where the protagonist, Lee, faces a dilemma: a young boy may or may not be bitten, and the character’s father is adamant that he has not. Meanwhile, another character insists that he has and that swift action must be taken. You have the choice of whom to side with and, even though your choice has no drastic effect immediately, the game tells you that the character you DID NOT side with will remember that you chose not to. This sort of emotional storytelling allows the player to identify with their character and the characters around them much more deeply than simply giving them a single option with a single outcome.

Clementine never forgets.

Clementine never forgets.

QTEs, when done right, allow the player a level of focus that other game mechanics don’t. For example, major boss scenes with intense button mashing QTEs make me crazy, in the best way. I’m on the edge of my seat, almost sweating, throwing it all in in an attempt to knock out the big boss. I am totally engaged and the victory is so rewarding. Is that what it takes to make a QTE successful? Mechanical complexity and high stakes? “The Walking Dead” is a good example of this not being the case, but many gamers cite sequences such as the one above as being their favorite kind of QTE, so it clearly has merit. Games like “God of War” and “Asura’s Wrath” are great examples of this sort of high stakes, intense QTE. “Asura’s Wrath” triumphs with its “burst” QTE. The “burst” takes on different forms to fit the situation, sometimes amping up the player to perform something powerful or even do something as silly as get drunk in a very NSFW scene. Even though the player does not always know what the burst will accomplish, they know it is at their disposal based on a meter. The player is kept focused and engaged because they know when the meter is finally full, they will be able to perform something truly impressive. Or just, ya know, get shwasted! In either case, the player is no longer passive or participating in something mundane. Perhaps getting drunk isn’t as emotionally engaging as many of the choices in “The Walking Dead” or “Heavy Rain”, but it is entertaining, another necessity when crafting a story of any kind.

Heavy Rain laying the QTEs on pretty...heavy.

Heavy Rain laying the QTEs on pretty…heavy.

Unfortunately, all QTEs aren’t silly drunken escapades or emotionally engaging decisions. They’ve increasingly become nothing more than “press x to not die”. Even inside of stellar games such as the recent “Tomb Raider” re-boot, this trend continues. What’s with the current trend of lackluster QTEs? Are developers basically writing film-esque cinematics within games and then realizing, “Oh snap. We gotta give them something to do here”? Are we as gamers okay with that? Which is better: a long, intense cut scene without any action on the player’s part or a cut scene with a few lackluster QTEs thrown in? Can we have a strong story with multiple, mechanically complex QTEs? Or does story suffer for mechanics? While many of these QTEs are thrown in to give a player a sense of control, the truth is that “control” is a facade, one that has only one outcome and little to no impact on the player.

Clearly, a QTE is a tool and can be used well, but recently we’ve found ourselves with lackluster attempts at interconnectivity. It’s obvious that gamers want sound storytelling and fully realized mechanics so why aren’t we getting them? Are developers getting lazy? Are we too demanding? I think there is a lot more to explore surrounding QTEs, hence all the questions in this post, but I know that right now, I’m not satisfied.

If only there were a single button I could push to fix it all…



No, we will not host a [insert game] tournament.

It’s not a surprise that with the explosive growth of eSports in the past five years we get asked on a daily basis if we’ll be running a [insert game] tournament.

In short, our answer is no.

Don’t get me wrong we love esports, tournaments, and packing our venue. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I think a largely appealing factor for gamers to play at Ignite is competition. Giving our fans an opportunity to put their skills to the test in a high energy environment is exhilarating, and not only for the participants, but us too. In fact, since we’ve opened doors at our new location (first event held on Feb. 2013) we’ve run roughly 45 unique tournaments in League of Legends, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Dota 2, CS:GO, Call of Duty, Street Fighter IV, and a myriad of other fighting games. In just two years we’ve distributed over $40,000 in cash and prizes and had thousands of gamers compete from all over the Midwest.


Our inaugural Summoner Saturdays event held on February 9th. Three hundred-something League of Legends fans ascended to watch forty-two 3v3 teams battle it out in the Twisted Treeline.

Our tournaments helped spearhead opportunities to create rich partnerships with SteelSeries, DXRacer, NVIDIA, and Red Bull. They connected us with the most loyal and passionate gamers that continuously show us support. We believe tournaments are an instrumental tool in helping us raise brand awareness, engage with our fans, and build strong communities.

Great, so you love ’em. We love ’em. What can you possibly mean by no tournaments, Sam?!

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a transparent perspective on how we view tournaments at Ignite – the process behind producing one, some of the struggles we’ve encountered, and our plans for the future. When we first moved into our new space we tripled in size, both in square footage and gaming stations. We have always been huge advocates of eSports and from the get-go we had envisioned a space large enough to accommodate tournaments and our regular foot traffic. Something we could no longer pull off at our previous location. Our goal was a minimum of 2 tournaments a month.  We jumped straight in by committing to a once-a-month League of Legends tournament dubbed Summoner Saturdays. The response was more than any of us had fathomed with lines forming hours prior to doors opening.  We were starry-eyed. We rushed to bring a diverse set of tournaments ranging from weekly fighting game ran bats to two day cash payout Dota 2 tournaments. By the time our first summer hit, we were running a different tournament every weekend.


Our June 2013 event line up. Sleep was a tertiary concern.

Man, that sounds like a lot of money and fun!

It was a ton of fun. So much fun that we didn’t get a chance to step back and realize that we were overlooking some crucial factors. After each sold out tournament (really, each one was sold out), we would sit back and talk about how we can bring an even better experience to the players. What we failed to realize was how they impacted our brand identity, finances, and most importantly our walk-in guests. Although we had planned for more of them well into 2014, we began more closely dissecting results and discovered several things:

Not Enough Stations for Everyone

Naturally our goal for every tournament was to sell out. It intensified the competition for tournament participants, padded the prize pools, and brought that energy that we all look for at a live event. Consequently, it also meant that we needed as many stations as possible to move the schedule along in a timely manner. The Freljord Cup, a two-day League of Legends tournament we held back in Jan. 2014, had sixteen teams battle it out in a double elimination bracket. The tournament went from 10am to 8pm each day to determine a victor. Thats 10 hours each day. This meant that for over half of our operational hours those days, all of our PCs were occupied for the tournament. This effectively displaced any patrons that were interested in coming and playing games over the weekend. Now if it were an isolated occasion it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but when every weekend or other weekend they would have to worry about getting seats because of it , well, you could imagine the frustration. It reached a point where we would get calls each weekend to see if we were running any tournaments. This lead us to discover what this over saturation of tournaments was doing to our brand.


In the heat of the action during our SC2 Red Bull Midwest Qualifier. Photo cred: Daniel Hauswald

Ignite Gaming Tournaments or Ignite Gaming Lounge?

Digging through our various marketing channel archives we quickly discovered that a predominant focus for us was tournaments. For a period almost anything that came from us was tournament related; promoting and advertising upcoming tournaments,  photos, videos, and media from them, countless Facebook posts and tweets, newsletters. We felt that from the outside looking in, we began resembling more of an event company then a gaming lounge. This permeated into our staff structure too. We had developed a three person team that was working full time on designing, promoting, and running tournaments. Our initial goal to use tournaments as event marketing transformed into somewhat of an eSports league company in the likes of ESL or MLG (albeit at a much smaller scale). The only difference was we didn’t create a foundation to monetize it.

Companies like ESL and MLG monetize their tournaments, both live and online, through major sponsors and ad revenue generated through viewership of their broadcasts. Essentially they are digital eSports content producers that offer advertisers an avenue to reach a coveted young male demographic. In fact, even large companies like these still haven’t quite figured out the surefire way to generate sustainable revenue. If you’ve been following MLG since 2002, you’ll realize that they’ve significantly scaled down on the amount of traveling live tournaments they host. They’ve gone as far as building their own arena in Columbus, OH to offset the costs of producing original content for their proprietary streaming platform All in all, producing these events is no walk in the park and without a robust strategy to produce premium content that captures ad revenue, it makes tournaments at any scale difficult to sustain.


Spectators watching live at the newly built MLG Arena in Columbus, OH. Photo cred:

So does that mean you’ll never run a tournament again? Say it ain’t so!

It ain’t so. Again, we love eSports and thoroughly enjoy the thrill and excitement live tournaments bring to the gaming community. We still plan on hosting some in our space, but we’ll just have to be more picky about the time and size of the tournament. We are being more sensitive than ever to our walk-in guests experience by making sure we don’t inconvenience them. At the end of the day we are a gaming lounge, and its important that we make it as easy as possible for any gamer to walk in and play some games, anytime. Nevertheless, we have been hitting the drawing boards and thinking of new ways to bring those large scale tournaments more consistently to the Chicago community. Who knows, we might even go outside of our four walls to make it happen…

If you have any questions or comments about the direction we’ve taken our tournaments, send them my way, I’d love to talk about it.


Separation of Film & Gaming

Modern storytelling exists under the umbrella of film. For more than a hundred years, film has been the American audience’s most culturally significant way of connecting with stories, more so than literature or even television; as opposed to video games which are very young in the world of art and storytelling. Though the gaming industry has now financially become the largest aspect of the entertainment industry – surpassing film and music quite handily – in the eyes of critics and most of its audience, gaming still lags behind films in the quality and presentation of storytelling. Throughout this adolescent phase of video games, we have consistently seen attempts at emulating movies. Read any review about a game like Mass Effect or Uncharted and you will probably run into the word “cinematic”. Why are video games constantly compared to movies? Are video games doomed to live in the shadow of film, or can they forge their own unique storytelling voice?

The comparison between film and video games comes from the way in which modern audiences consume stories. Film has taught each of us the basic building blocks of story and story structure – heroes that take action and go on an adventure, overcome obstacles and learn about themselves, and a conclusion that allows our heroes to achieve their goals, having changed. Of course, these ideas are much older than film; they are as old as humanity. However, the 20th century was dominated by film in the arena of storytelling and has thus influenced audiences the most. The men and women who create the games we all enjoy were influenced by these films as well. Without Star Wars, we may not get Mass Effect. Without Indiana Jones, we may not get Tomb Raider or Uncharted. Without Alien, I’m assuming we might not have Alien: Isolation. Is it possible that these games exist without their film counterparts? Yes. However, not only are the influences clear while playing, but the ideas and themes found in some of these films laid the groundwork for the games to expand upon. Movies and video games are similar in their most basic form – visual presentation to create an entertaining and hopefully emotional experience for an audience. Because of this, the influence of film on video games is neither surprising nor necessarily bad. The extent of which that influence reaches is where we begin to see video games succeed or fail.

Without Indiana Jones, we might not have Indiana-Lara Croft fanfiction! (oh god) Image from

Without Indiana Jones, we might not have Indiana-Lara Croft fanfiction! (oh god) Image from

Despite the positive influences of film, the negative aspects are clearly visible as well. Far too often a gamer will reach moments in a game where control is ripped away from us and we watch a video of our character doing super awesome things we would love to be a part of, but instead are now regulated to the role of spectator. Cut scenes in video games, while not always bad, undercut the very thing that makes video games unique – interactivity. That’s the major element of gaming: being able to thrive in worlds and circumstances we may not experience in real life. We’re not just watching someone else’s life unfold while playing, we’re making choices and making moves that make us feel responsible for what’s happening. Other times we’ll see video games attempting to tell a story in a way that mirrors film, despite games typically being much longer, resulting in missions and quests that feel like filler or unimportant to the real story. Unless otherwise stated, gameplay should be the focus of a game, not the ninth song on a twelve song album. Gameplay is the pre-released solos, so we need something with which we want to engage. Any time a game developer attempts to make players feel like they are in a movie, they fundamentally undercut the unique aspects of gaming as a medium – immersion and interactivity.

Games like Mass Effect and The Walking Dead have begun to capitalize on the emotional impact you can have on an audience when you allow them choice, creating personal connections with the characters in the game. While these games were certainly not the first to attempt this, they are currently the ones doing it best and allowing gamers a form of immersion that most do not. When we are forced to choose between Kaidan or Ashley or between fighting a zombie horde or running away, we become immersed in a way that other art forms can’t offer. We are allowed to move from a passive observer to an active participant, giving us an unprecedented level of interactivity. Games become more than just something we consume, but a unique collaboration between the developers and their audience.

How do you choose?! Image by Ethaclane on Diviantart.

How do you choose?! Image by Ethaclane on Deviantart.

Advances in technology will be a key partner in the future of video game storytelling. Oculus Rift and other virtual reality (VR) companies are vying to bring a brand new experience to gamers around the world. VR gets us even closer to full immersion, a step that will again allow the gaming industry to highlight what makes gaming unique from other art forms. Allowing gamers to stand in the shoes of a hero rather than merely controlling one breaks down another wall that stands between an audience and the art they are experiencing. We will fight dragons, pilot spaceships, leap out of buildings, shoot zombies, form relationships…everything that film and TV merely present to the audience we will have the chance to actually perform. The possibilities are truly endless.

A .gif from the Oscar winning film, "Birdman".

A .gif from the Oscar winning film, “Birdman”. 

We are all watching the video game industry grow up, and as with most things that go through that awkward, pimply phase, there have been and will continue to be growing pains. However, we are also witnessing some of the most exciting and groundbreaking projects that the video game industry has ever put forth. Thanks to advances in technology and the creative minds now flocking to video games as a medium for storytelling, the time has come for video games to emerge as the pioneers of a new kind of storytelling. A new wave that allows for an interactive experience with the audience, creating engagement at a level that is impossible for any other art form to achieve. Video games can acknowledge their roots in film and, firmly grasping the lessons learned from that medium, move the idea of modern storytelling forward in ways that have never been imagined.


Tucker Poindexter is a guest writer for Ignite Gaming Blog. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago whose passions lie in directing and writing for film. For more writing, witty commentary, and a bit of sarcasm, check him out @TuckDeanPoin on twitter.