WINTER PARK, FL — On St. Patrick’s Day weekend, at the first Red Bull LAN of its 2012 performance camp season, the best of the best of eSports athletes proved that training, not the luck of the Irish, is the key to reaching the gaming pot of gold.
Over the course of the three day invitational training camp, top professional players from Blizzard Entertainment’s global eSports staple, StarCraft II and competitive players of Halo: Reach engaged in intense, focused practice in a specially-created arena at Full Sail University (www.fullsail.edu), testing new strategies, refining techniques, facing rivals and pushing the limits of their stamina in preparation for tournament play.
Arriving on location Friday from around the country and the globe, over the course of the three day Red Bull LAN, the assembled athletes trained for a collective 300-plus hours, and for the first time, spectators and fans were on site to learn and cheer on the players. Nearly 2.5 million fans tuned in each night across four live streams to watch 18 hours of play, witnessing the successes and upsets, the trials and triumphs as they happened, like the insane free-for-all match on the last day, which ended with Joseph “Tizoxic” Campbell, Paul “Snakebite” Duarte and Matthew “Royal 2” Fiorante on top. Kicking off strong, as of day one, #RBLAN was trending on Twitter, as spectators around the world participated in the event with their comments and questions for the athletes displayed above the central stage. The Red Bull LAN Orlando wrapped up Sunday night, but with it, the 2012 eSports competitive season has officially commenced.
Attending from the Halo: Reach circuit were teams Status Quo – led by Red Bull athletes and Red Bull LAN alums Ian “Enable” Wyatt and Mike “Flamesword” Chaves, team Instinct, deemed “The God Squad” by their fans, and team Dynasty – who headed to Orlando to show they’re ready to rule the 2012 tournament circuit. Testing out new strategies, and in the case of Status Quo, new team members, the theme of the weekend was communication, as teams scrimmaged each night to strengthen their core dynamics. A highlight of the weekend for viewers and athletes alike was a new role for eSports legend and Red Bull athlete David “Walshy” Walsh, who – for the first time - hung up his headphones and picked up a mic to serve as commentator for the Halo: Reach live stream. Respected, revered and a source for inspiration for every player attending the Red Bull LAN, as well as for fans at home, Walshy was presented with the one-of-a kind, mouth-watering “Milk and Honey” 24-carat gold headset as a token to wish him well in the next phase of his gaming career.
No strangers to intense practice, an international assemblage of elite StarCraft II players arrived on the scene prepared to work, facing off in hectic one-on-one battles, with Sean “Day” Plott of www.day9.tv and Marcus “djWHEAT” Wheat calling the plays and analyzing the action. While all StarCraft II players were able to compete with one another, the weekend featured four focus players, including Marcus “ThorZaIN” Eklöf, Dennis “HasuObs” Schneider, Shawn “Sheth” Simon and Joseph “Ret” de Kroon, all of whom were given the opportunity to improve upon their weaknesses in specific situations, playing in back-to-back matches. Players also partook in some less traditional gameplay sessions, such as a four-versus-four Korea versus Sweden challenge to much audience fanfare.
Before the LAN officially kicked off, Walshy arrived onto the Full Sail University campus to meet with students from the gaming programs. Taking time out to test a sampling of student projects, Walshy proved his gaming mettle yet again and managed to add his legendary moniker to the high scores page on one of the student’s projects. After meeting personally with several members of the Full Sail student body, Walshy had the honor of awarding a $10,000 scholarship in his name to a deserving – and ecstatic – student.
The Red Bull LAN Orlando has wrapped, but it was just the beginning of the Red Bull LAN 2012 circuit – next stop, Austin, Texas in May.