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.


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).

Own The Night

Last Friday, Ignite held “Own The Night”, a Dying Light launch event. With over 200 participants coming through and over 50 separate games played, I would say that people were…dying to play it.

To start the celebrations, we added a few thematic elements to our space to create an eerie feeling throughout the facility: red dimmed lighting, chains hanging from trusses, our pod signs and desktops were Dying Light themed, all while the adrenaline pumping soundtrack blared over the house speakers. We wanted to the attendees to feel like they were in an abandoned building in Harran.


Red lights dimmed, chains hung…now we wait…

For the main event, we focused on the Be The Zombie game mode. In this mode, four human players go head to head versus one player as the zombie – called the Night Hunter. While you might be saying, “That doesn’t sound fair at all…” the Night Hunter just so happens to be zombie Spiderman. The infected swings from building to building with fleshy tendrils shooting from his hands. It also has an array of grenades, such as an EMP-like phosphorescent grenade that disables the players’ anti-zombie UV flashlight and globular grenades that attract zombies, similar to Left 4 Dead’s Boomer vomit.

Whether they played co-op or as the zombie, everyone was having a blast! Some groups of four came in ready to take on the zombie, but solo players and smaller pairs united to take on the infected as a team. We even saw a group of friends travel over an hour from Naperville and a handful of individuals off of, well, met up. For us, having events is important because they do exactly that: bring the gaming community together. It’s events like these that make me realize the thrill of gamers coming together and enjoying themselves; even if it’s a game that everyone’s learning for the first time.


Full house! Teamwork vs Spidey Senses…who will win?! Just like on Oprah, everyone!

We gave away a bunch of prizes as well! Who ever won, either the four person team or the zombie, received a super extremely rare (not really) raffle ticket that was added to the pot in order to win the night’s grand prize, one of three Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics cards! By the end of the night, many people had won multiple times, some even walking away with dozens of tickets. We had other prizes that participants could score too, from t-shirts and mousepads to copies of the game. The prizes didn’t stop at the door, as participants also had a chance to win a GeForce GTX 980 or two GeForce GTX 960’s online through Alienware Arena instant win codes.

nVIDIA graphics cards, the big prize of the night!

nVIDIA graphics cards, the big prize of the night!

For everyone to come out and just have a fun time means a lot to me, and to Ignite. At the end of the day, I really felt as if this event connected differently with our community. For starters, it was our first game launch event! We worked directly with the developers and emphasis was placed on discovering the game’s mechanics, surviving a Night Hunter’s assault, and playing cooperatively with friends. If you’ve been following our events over the years, you’ll know that we typically focus on intensely competitive games with high stake payouts. I really liked the pace, feel, and response we’ve received from this launch party. My hope is that you’ll continue to see an eclectic variety of events around games that might not have the most obvious competitive scene…you know, throw in some curve balls and get everyone hyped up! In the months to come, we’ll do what we can to really broaden our spectrum by introducing more games into our arsenal and coming up with fresh ideas for events.

For those that don’t know me, my name is Chris and I am the Gaming Events Manager here at Ignite Gaming Lounge. Gaming is my passion and I love interacting with the community by putting together fun and exciting events for everyone to enjoy. I’ve got my eyes on the global gaming scene and would love to bring the growth we’ve been seeing as an industry right to our backyard. Hit me up at, or twitter @TheStormbeard for any and all your gaming questions, events suggestions, or if you just want to talk about whether Han shot first.