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Gaming Festivals and the rise of eSports in the Philippines

01 May

Gaming and eSports are two things that have risen these past few years and are continuing to rise until today in our country. These eSports, also known as electronic sports, esports, e-sports, competitive gaming, professional gaming, or pro gaming are forms of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces. (Hamari, 2016) Many Filipinos from all around the Philippines and people around the world are engaged in online games and E-Sports where they even have tournaments including international gaming groups from all around the world fighting for glory and for the prize money. It is also said by Philippa Warr in an article that 71.5 million people are watching eSports in 2013.

With the rising number of Filipinos being in the online gaming and E-Sports scene, I have decided to conduct a study about the gaming festivals or gatherings in the Philippines. One of the said gatherings is the Pinoy Gaming Festival held at Trinoma from April 28, 2017 to April 30, 2017. I asked help from an Ateneo Alumnus, Zen Angeles, who now works as a production manager for an E-Sports group based on the Philippines known as Mineski to guide me during my observation and participation on the events in the Pinoy Gaming Festival since I am not that familiar with the current gaming and E-sports trends.

Me and my key informant, Zen Angeles

I conducted a study by attending the event on April 28, 2017 from 4 pm to 8 pm. With the help of my key informant, I was able to observe the event and take down notes on how the event went and how the eSports community is right now in the Philippines. He showed me around the event and I participated in some of the events they have in the Philippine Gaming Festival. I was able to try a lot of things and observe the other people who went to the gaming festival during the four hours I’ve been in Trinoma activity center for the event.

Arriving to Trinoma Activity center where the event was help, the event was kind of crowded because first, people can enter for free and the day I went is a holiday so many people are probably in the mall because of the said holiday. Entering the activity center, I notice that people are minding their own businesses going through the different booths in the events, taking pictures with the cosplayers and the main stage where people from different eSports group are presenting. There are also many people presenting their brands of gaming equipment other computer related hardware and have events where people could win monitors or other gaming paraphernalia by joining the events they have in their respective booths.

I then met my key informant after being able to contact him and after their event in the main stage of the gaming festival, he then showed me around the event. There are booths from highlighted games such as Vainglory, mobile legends, Counter-strike: Global Offensive, Defense of the Ancients 2 or more commonly known as DotA 2, and League of Legends also known as LoL, where they let people play the game and have tournaments during the event itself. There are also, booths from local game developers developing a new first-person shooter game. The game was named Xandata. My key informant said it looked like Overwatch, a game which is popular among today’s gamers of first-person shooter games. I was able to try the game Xandata, it was hard since I never really play computer games but it is nice to see games like that being developed by Filipinos. Before being able to play, they made me sign-up in a logbook and put­­­ a stamp on my hands. The booth is for people to be able to try and test the game. However, the game is not yet online and is only for local use with connected computers in the same network.  I also observed how other booths have people from different age brackets play together. It looked like there is a son and mother and father tandem in one of the highlighted game’s booth. This shows how gaming is not only for the young people but for everyone and can also be a kind of family bonding if all of you play the game.

Trying out Xandata, a new game being developed by Filipinos

Games not only in the PC platform are in the event. Games using tablets, cellphones, VR, and gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation are in the event. There is a booth for JUST DANCE using Xbox. Just dance is a really nice game especially for those who love to dance. People of different age and gender are trying the game and they really show confidence while doing so. I was not able to try it because I was shy to dance in front of many people but watching them play and dance gave me joy. My key informant even danced with his officemates in Mineski. He said that he and his officemates are really getting close through gaming and are having fun daily in their office because they do what they love to do and enjoy while earning money.

A woman playing Just Dance

There are also giveaway booths from Globe, MSI, ViewSonic and other brands who are hoping to expand the reach of their product and make use of the gaming festival to get sales. In the Globe booth, you get freebies when you loud up a certain amount. You can get a tumbler when you load up 50 pesos, a cellphone ring when you load up 100 pesos, an inflatable pillow or earphones when you load up 150 pesos, cellphone powered fan when you load up 200 pesos and a mobile legends tshirt when you load up 500 pesos. MSI gives ballers to whoever signups in their booth and participants get to receive a lanyard when they finish all the stamps in the booth. However, I wasn’t able to finish the events in their booth and only got a baller for participating in one event which is the Virtual Reality game. This is a nice way for them to showcase their products and even have a possible client from the participants who might be looking for high-end gaming hardware and equipment.

Globe freebies

The VR game I played in MSI booth is a game where you shoot hordes of stick figures attacking your castles using a bow and arrow. The experience was fun and thrilling since it is like you are shooting and feeling the tension of the bow and arrow for real and you moving your head makes you move the view of the character you are playing in the game. They only let participant play until the 8th wave though. After I survived the 8th wave, they told me that I should move on and let the next player play the game. It was nice realizing that I survived the game until the part where they still allow people to play. That being my first VR experience is a really fun one. I even had the guy in the booth have my photo taken while I pose with the VR mask and motion sensors on. It was a really thrilling and fun experience shooting those stickmen hordes trying to destroy my castle.

Me trying out the VR game

Filipinos are also said to be always talking trash while gaming according to my informant and as I’ve experienced while trying out the game Xandata. The other guys playing against me are always shouting and are taunting other every time they get a kill. I had difficulties playing the game but it was still a nice experience. I noticed how the other players playing with me are a lot more familiar with the game especially with the weapon choice because they have weapons stronger and easier to use than I did. They also seem to know the goals of the game more than some of the players playing with us did. The trash talking experience I got from these guys made me realize how competitive Filipinos are even if it’s only in games we’re talking about. Now I understand why I see memes where people call Filipinos “Peenoise”, it is because we Filipinos are always noisy and there to trash talk to taunt other whenever we play games.

After playing and visiting booths I took the time to take pictures with the cosplayers. It is my first time seeing people dress up weirdly like characters from anime or from games. They have these costumes that looked like it took time and effort to make. Many people are also taking pictures with the cosplayer, making a line of whose next in line to take pictures with the cosplayer who seemed like a celebrity of some sort because of the people wanting to take pictures with her. It is like she is an artist from ABS-CBN or GMA because of the long line of people wanting to take pictures of her in her costume that looked so nice with her cool scythe looking weapon.

After visiting the booths and taking pictures of the events, the cosplayers and the people in the events, I rested for a bit by watching the raffle in the main stage. The hosts are picking winners of keyboards, mouses, monitors, and other gaming accessories from gaming brands such as Razer, MSI, etc through lottery. I also listened to the songs that they played to pump the gamers up who are palying in the tournament. They also streamed games with the commentator in the main stage of games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, two of the top online games that Filipinos and people around the world play according to my informant.

Cj and the cosplayer

At 8 PM in the evening, I left the event and ate dinner at Trinoma then went back to Katipunan still full of adrenaline because I got so pumped up by the games I played and got so tired from going through all the booths in the event and trying everything I could try.

 

What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?

Participating in the gaming festival helped me to be more familiar in the gaming and eSports scene in the Philippines. With gaming already rising and becoming part of the lives of the millennials because of the growing and spreading influence of the internet, I saw how the Filipinos are keeping up with the gaming scene especially in developing new games that can be at the same level as games developed by international companies. My views about gaming and how it is a waste of time and how it is not that fun changed after I saw how nice the gaming community in our country is. Gaming for some people, has been a part of their lives. Whether you work for a game developing company or companies that offer the gaming hard wares and paraphernalia to get the greatest gaming experience you can. This can also remove the stigma that gaming is a child’s thing to do. You can earn money through gaming or by doing things related to gaming and developing games. This goes to show that gaming is not only for fun but it also is a growing economy because of the tournaments and the rising number of developers and companies offering the best computers and laptops for everyone’s gaming needs.

Booths offering giveaways and other gaming platforms to showcase their products and games

What did having a key informant add to your understanding?

            Having Zen as my key informant helped me a lot because he is from Mineski and they travel around the world going to international eSports events representing the Philippines. Being a production manager for Mineski, he clearly knows a lot in the gaming scene in the PH. It’s also kind of nice to have a friend as a key informant because I was more comfortable playing and participating in the event knowing there is someone I can trust in the event who’ll guide me and help me through the time I observe and participate in the Philippine Gaming Festival.

What was learned from participant observation and at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?

            The excitement and the adrenaline while playing these games might be missed by interviews or questionnaires. It is hard to feel the excitement and adrenaline unless you try the real thing. Playing the new developed game, Xandata and the VR game made me thrilled while playing and really increased my adrenaline levels. It is really different if you’re only watching and if you’re the one playing.

For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?

            It might be better to just have an interview for the list of other games and the start of the gaming community in the Philippines. Having informants who are familiar with the gaming scene in our country is helpful especially because they help you and guide you in whatever problem or question you have about gaming and eSports. It might also be better to use questionnaires and interviews with the pro gamers in the Philippines to know how they feel while gaming and what it takes to be a pro in gaming and eSports.

Using our cafeteria observation exercise as reference, what insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?

Our cafeteria observation exercise only included the students in our school but in this case it encompassed people from different places in the metro and probably other places in the Philippines. It also has people with large age gaps and people with different jobs and careers, not just students. This is an event with a much broader reach and using our cafeteria observation exercise as reference I was able to have new realizations and ideas about the relationship of eSports and the country socio-culturally. Gaming as well as other rising industries are starting to become part of our daily lives especially to people who use it as a living. It is a rising industry which is rapidly rising because of the influence of the internet and how easily accessible it is nowadays.

People of different age and gender are playing together in one of the Highlighted game, Vainglory

 

In conclusion, eSports is a rising industry that millennials should invest into especially with the rising demand for IT related workers because of the internet becoming a necessity nowadays. The socio-cultural and socio-economic relationship of gaming and the Filipino community is shown throughout the Pinoy Gaming Festival held at Trinoma from April 28 to April 30. It showed how gaming can affect people of different ages and backgrounds and how gaming can be a career whether it is playing professionally or developing games and making hardware and equipment for the gaming needs of the Filipino people. eSports affect the lives of Filipinos as it continues to be part of the daily lives of the people in our country may it be pro gaming or just the simple apps we download in our phones and tablets, gaming has solidify its place in the Filipino people’s lives.

Borja, Christopher John | SA 21-X | May 1, 2017

Sources:

Zen Angeles – my key informant

Hamari, Juho; Sjöblom, Max (2016). “What is eSports and why do people watch it?”. Internet Research.

Philippa Warr (9 April 2014). “eSports in numbers: Five mind-blowing stats”. Red Bull. Retrieved 9 November 2014.

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