International tournament offers $5,000 in prize money
Warriors from around the world gathered in Calgary to test their skills against each other on the ring at the second annual Canada Cup.
The Canada Cup is Canada's largest tournament of fighting-based video games.
Hosted here in Calgary, for it's second outing, the main feature was a $5,000 five-on-five tournament.
It pitted Canada's best against representatives from Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore and Korea in the game of "Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition."
"Canada Cup has done an amazing thing, it's the biggest tournament we have in Canada," says Bans, 25, a marketing manager for CanWest.
Photo by: Danny Luong
Hundreds attended the event this year at the Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel in the northeast. The games were also broadcast online to viewers with commentary for those who couldn't attend the event live.
Vancouver-born Neel Bans was amongst the crowd cheering on Canada's best in the two-day event.
With enthusiasm, Bans says it's exciting to see hundreds of people from all over the world come to Calgary for a fighting video game tournament.
"Its nice to see what the community here has done," Bans says.
The area of the Sheraton that's usually reserved for weddings or public speeches was packed with game stations, and smelled like a sporting event, rather than a room full of gamers.
Cheers erupted whenever a big match was shown on the main screen, with people placing bets on their favourite players. The silence was tension-inducing as Canadian players fought their hardest in the singles bracket against challengers around the world.
Hundreds of players attended the event in Calgary, and not all of them came to play — many were there just as spectators.
Mike Trinh, a participant in the tournament, likened the experience to watching sports.
"It breaks down to one word, hype," says Trinh, 25, a petroleum engineer.
Trinh says every kind of sport or eSport has moments that constantly excite the crowd, but that this is much more amplified when watching fighting games.
"Nothing is as hype as fighting games," Trinh says. "Fighting games have those moments and they constantly keep coming where the crowd starts yelling."
Yelling is exactly what happened as soon as the five-member Canadian team entered the stage for the five-on-five tournament starring strong and recognized players from the Street Fighter community around the world.
The captain of the Canadian team, Kenny (Air) Lam, felt strongly about his team's chances.
"We're actually really underrated on the map," says Lam. "but my teammates are good and they stand a good chance against everybody.
"I'm pretty confident that we can make top three."
The Canadian scene
With a robust and diverse Canadian team featuring two members from Montreal, one from Vancouver, and two more from Calgary, the team was the best Canada had to offer.
Lam recalled that because the Canadian scene was so relatively unknown, they held qualifiers across Canada to determine who was "actually good."
"I think we have a lot of decent players compared to America," says Lam. "They're just not known, their names aren't up there, but I think we're getting there."
For the opening match, Team Canada was pitted against a team from the United Kingdom, which has a strong assortment of players, including Ryan Hart, arguably England's best player.
Let the tournament begin
The crowd went through a series of highs and lows throughout the two-day tournament, starting with Canada destroying the United Kingdom's main team and then getting knocked into the loser's bracket by the elite group of players that represented the U.S. team.
Once in that bracket, Canada was pitted against the Korean team, and despite all odds — and two to one bets being placed across the crowd in favor of Korea —Canada prevailed, even after hitting a wall against a strong Korean player that went by the handle of "Infiltration."
Again, the crowd went wild, but Canada was going to hit a very hard roadblock on their way to victor — Japan.
Bans believed that with the hype it became like a six-man advantage of Canada rooting for their team that was really helping the Canadian players.
"I'm not saying that we're the best team here," Bans says. "But with the hype we have an advantage that they don't have every single time a foreign player lands a hit on a Canadian player."
Canada's team captain believed the same thing.
"When everybody roots for me it gives me power," Lam says. "It makes me stay strong even when I'm in a really bad situation."
Lam feels like he can't lose
"I have to represent my country, I have to win."
After a strong and desperate struggle, team Canada was knocked out and put into fourth place out of eight competing teams.
Japan's eLivePro team took first place, beating out the U.S. which put the them in second place, Japan's second team, team MCZ, placed third. "This just gives me something to look forward to next time as well and to up my skills to show off next time," says Bans
- By Danny Luong