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Is BarCraft Toronto the new Hockey Night in Canada?

Posted by Guest Contributor / August 22, 2011

Barcraft TorontoOut of the basements and onto the streets. Nerds are coming out of their bedrooms and letting their geek flag fly in the city. One of the many new events catering to this new demographic is BarCraft, a monthly mixture of booze, nerds, and eSports. On Sunday, July 31st, Molly Blooms Pub on College street hosted the 6th Toronto BarCraft, an event attended by roughly 80 people.

eSports have been big business in South Korea for over a decade, but are just starting to make it big in North America. Starcraft 2, the newest game from World of Warcraft maker, Blizzard, has energized its North American fanbase. One of the biggest changes? Professional sports casters. "There were casters [for other games] before... but not on the level required to compete with normal sports in a bar." says local BarCraft organizer, Lorin Halpert.

Wait...compete with normal sports? How exactly does a game like Starcraft stack up against hockey? "As a viewer, you can see both player's strategies unfold," describes Halpert, "There is a real tension as you watch the players attempt to discover the others plan"

Last July fans packed Molly Blooms to watch the finals of the Major League Gaming pro-circuit stop in Anaheim. As prizes for North American tournaments have climbed, local favorites like Canadian Chris "HuK" Loranger have had to face stiff competition from Korean players like Jeong "Mvp" Jong Hyeon. The final matches streamed live at the bar were from a contingent of Korean players who swept the top 4 positions.

Barcraft Toronto"The best part is when your watching a live game, and something unexpected happens, and the whole bar goes wild!" raves Halpert, "...watching a clutch play or something that looks like a crushing defeat turn into an amazing upset game!".

So is knowing how to play Starcraft required for watching a game? Not any more than it is for baseball. You make a bunch of army men, they go and kill the other guy. Sure, there are nuances, but watch a few games and you start to figure it out. "I definitely watch more than I play" admits Halpert, a position shared by many fans.

The games are played live in front of an audience, with a group of professional commentators describing the action in excited tones, as well as explaining the finer points of strategy to beginners. BarCraft events have sprung up all over North America, where organizers buy passes to high resolution streams of the events, and display them for the local eSports community to watch at willing bars and restaurants.

On August 28th, those interested in dabbling in eSports are welcome to join the locals in watching the the MLG Tournament at the Victory Cafe. Crowds are sure to be there in force, and word on the street is that HuK is training hard to improve from his 6th place finish at the last event. Here's hoping fans in Toronto have a Canadian to cheer in the finals!

Writing by Peter MacDonald. Photos courtesy Lorin Halpert.



Rob / August 22, 2011 at 10:02 am
Otherwise known as Vienna Sausage Fest
Rob / August 22, 2011 at 10:53 am
MLG Halo? I'd watch that with commentary. Watching Starcraft is about as fun as watching any other non-team sport like Poker, Tennis, or Dominos.
jaw / August 22, 2011 at 11:43 am
This should have been a Street Style post. Missed opportunity.
Aly / August 22, 2011 at 02:40 pm
There are events like this all over the the world, those interested in going in person should go to either or
Marty Chase / August 23, 2011 at 09:01 am
I agree with Rob, watching two people form armies and farm for resources isn't fun regardless of how much beer you drink while doing so.

I'd be interested in seeing some fighters/shooters have a format like this
Ruben / August 23, 2011 at 09:32 am
Marty, the reason why there are no other games which have a format like this is because they are just in general less fun to watch. Maybe it doesn't seem as much fun to YOU, but if shooters/fighters would be more fun to watch, why don't they have a format like this? They are not even getting close. I doubt you've ever watched a Starcraft 2 game.
Doug / August 23, 2011 at 09:42 am
@ Marty, shooters do have a format like that, however you can only watch them from the first person point of view in most cases, this makes it really dull to watch.
We also put on the EVO at the last event, which is a major fighting game tournament, however there was no interest.

There is a reason SC2 has taken over the main stage at MLG and is growing rapidly and competitive FPS games are for the most part stagnant.
Lorin Halpert / August 23, 2011 at 05:36 pm
I think the reason FPS has mostly stagnated is that the strategic element when viewing is not very obvious, there hasn't been any innovation done as far as camera control (having digital camera operators) or a 'birds-eye' view specifically targeted at non-participatory viewing.

We will see what happens with the upcoming 'Counter Strike: Global Offensive', which may bring things back into the fold, who knows... for now, we have Starcraft 2 :)
Lorin Halpert / August 23, 2011 at 05:41 pm
I should mention that the Toronto BarCraft has always been organized by the amazing Jason "chromate" Hunt and not myself. I help coordinate things on a more global level, and come cheer at the local events :)
TLNET apm66 replying to a comment from Ruben / August 23, 2011 at 06:59 pm
I doubt that Marty has ever experienced the intensity that the Starcraft2 fans bring to a live event!
iSkyscraper / August 23, 2011 at 10:31 pm
Way to go, BlogTO! You just scooped the freaking Wall Street Journal!
Duncan / October 23, 2011 at 09:32 am
I think it be way more fun to play than to watch. Drinking, and FPS. Everytime you get a kill you have to take a shot. Excellent way to enfore a handicap.

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Leo / February 16, 2012 at 06:17 pm
Typical person who thinks that Starcraft 2 is boring. Watching their micro and macro skills are insane. You can't deny that, the game IQ of these pros are incredible. Please, at least educate yourself first in Starcraft 2 instead of just bashing them due to your unhealthy fascination with FPS.
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