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PC culture conquers Barclays! Stadium to host massive video game tournament

Battle ground: Fans fill a stadium in Germany at an Electronic Sports League tournament last year.
Brooklyn Daily
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Forget Nets games — ’net games are coming to Barclays Center!

The organizers of an international video-game tournament circuit expect thousands of fans to cram into Brooklyn’s biggest area to watch a high-stakes “Counter Strike” contest in October. Staring at a screen might sound like something you can just do at home, but experts say it is genuinely thrilling to cheer, gasp, and groan alongside other spectators while watching contestants fight to the digital death.

“It’s a shared experience with a massive amount of other human beings,” said Andy Nealen, a professor of game engineering and computer graphics at New York University. “Just to straight up be in the atmosphere, it’s pretty exhilarati­ng.”

Organizer Electronic Sports League, which claims to be the world’s largest “e-sports” company, has packed out stadiums in Germany, the Philippines, Poland, and the distant island of Manhattan, where fans come to watch teams of professional gamers — yes, they exist — duke it out in shoot-em-up titles that also include “Dota 2” and “Battlefield 4.”

The contestants are just like other athletes — minus the athleticism, according to Nealen. They spend thousands of hours practicing, wear team jerseys, nab corporate sponsors, and compete for huge cash prizes. The prize pool for the Barclays contest will be a whopping $250,000.

Nealen says the gaming community gets a bad rap for being a bigoted boys club, but he attended a tournament in Las Vegas a few years ago, and was blown away by the diversity and sense of community amongst competitors and attendees.

“There’s still tons of misogyny and racial issues in the community,” he said. “But sometimes communities like this fix it in a better way than other people trying to fix it.”

And at least one Brooklynite says he’ll definitely pay money for a ticket to the showdown in October.

“It’s good to see the competitive gaming scene getting some love in Brooklyn,” said lifelong Bensonhurst resident Jackson Chen. “It’s the first I’ve heard of an event like this in the neighborhood, so I’m definitely going to check it out.”

ESL One at Barclays Center [620 Atlantic Ave. at Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, (917) 618–6100, en.esl-one.com/csgo/newyork-2016]. Oct. 1 and 2. Tickets available May 17.

Updated 5:52 pm, July 9, 2018
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