HONOLULU (KHON2) — Playing video games professionally has become popular globally, and this is known as playing an “e-sport”. Popular e-sport “Overwatch League”, which is based on the Overwatch game, has signed a deal with the University of Hawaii at Manoa to play its tournaments in Hawaii from May to August.
“In the pandemic environment that’s been really challenging, where travel and immigration and health and safety issues have just made everything more complex and complicated,” said Jon Spector, Overwatch League vice president.
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With players based in Asia and North America, Spector said the best solution to bridge the tournaments from the two continents was to hold part of the tournament in Hawaii.
“We have the ability to take teams that were already based in the United States or in Canada, and have them travel out to Hawaii which is relatively easy in terms of those complicated factors. We feel good from a health and safety perspective that asking those players to come here.”
While in Hawaii, the league will be following strict COVID-19 protocols that include mask-wearing, social distancing and taking a COVID-19 test every 48 hours. Their partner, the University of Hawaii also requires a daily symptom check, since the matches will be held on campus.
For University of Hawaii students and staff taking part in the setups, they too will have to follow the same rules.
“They take (the test) at home and they basically take the test online. It’s proctored. Then they come here and they show the tests to the COVID officer for the Overwatch League and after that they get the green to take part,” said Sky Kauweloa, University of Hawaii head of the e-sports task force.
With the tournaments set in Hawaii, it will put the state on a global stage.
“This itself right now is a test run and if this is pulled off successfully, other publishers, other game developers will look at Hawaii, and say you know what, this could be an option.”Sky Kauweloa, University of Hawaii Head of the E-sports Task Force
While the University of Hawaii was unable to comment on how much revenue this could bring in to the state, dozens of Overwatch League, staff, players and coaches have flown in staying at local hotels in Waikiki.
Kauweloa said additional e-sports tournaments could even draw e-sports fans to the islands in the future when things open up more.
“We can hold cross regional championships between the west coast of the united states or continental U.S. and east Asia. Once that happens, you have more interest, a bigger spotlight placed upon the island itself,” said Kauweloa.
It is also an opportunity for students who get to work behind the scenes.
“… Giving students that are younger a more stable path into the e-sports industry, whether that’s through collegiate as a player or through broadcasting or really just anything that they’re interested in,” said Kason Padilla, e-sports project manager.
As for the league, Spector said the contract with the University of Hawaii has been signed for the 2021 season, but beyond that they are unsure. However, he said they are excited for the partnership.
“This has been months and months of planning from our entire team and our partners at the University of Hawaii, and feeling welcomed here and being able to pull off these global tournaments for our fans all over the world field feels really special, and we don’t take any of that for granted, given how complicated and challenging all of this is in the pandemic environment. So, we’re thrilled to be here,” said Spector.
The first tournament in May, the “May Melee” will take place from May 6 to May 8. People can tune in to watch it here.