Michael Nguyen, Andy Tran, Kevin Shi, Haris Chaudhry and William Lam

Ontario gamers are making a name for themselves in eSports

The computer fans hummed, and the mouse shook with a burst of clicks, as Andy Tran and his teammates practised the timed lock of their keyboards. The five Ontario university students were seated before a row of desktop computers at the AMD corporate headquarters in Markham, Ont. on this Saturday morning in early November 2016, reviewing their strategies ahead of the region’s latest DOTA 2 video gaming tournament.

The professional gamers and tech enthusiasts — they compete under the team name Cafe Lu Crew — were about to enter battle for some serious prize money, at ExtravaLANza 2016.

DOTA 2, a 5 versus 5 team game, is one of the top games in the eSports world and is one of the highlights of the Nov. 6. event.

Toronto Observer’s Jacqueline Thetsombandith had the opportunity to follow professional Dota 2 player, Andy Tran, around for the day along with his team Cafe Lu Crew. (Jacqueline Thetsombandith/Toronto Observer)

Andy Tran’s Top Tech Picks

1. Razer Deathadder Mouse: “I’ve been using (it) for a decade now so it’s just comfort and familiarity.”
2. HyperX Cloud Headset: Tran says the headset is comfy, has great sound and doesn’t break the bank.
3. A mechanical keyboard with “cherry switches”: These keyboards offer a click sound when one types on it. Gamers like it. Tran adds that he appreciates the different travel distances while typing, which is important for gamers making quick moves in gameplay.
4. 144hz Monitor: “The monitor makes playing the game feel more fluid and more immersive.”
5. A big mousepad: It’s necessary that your mouse doesn’t run off the pad. Readjusting the mouse may take too much time and lead to a team’s defeat.

Source: Andy Tran, Competitive Dota 2 player

Tran, 22, has been playing for eight years. He currently plays on the team with four of his friends: Haris Chaudhry, William Lam, Michael Nguyen and Kevin Shi. Tran credits Nguyen for initially introducing him to gaming.

“We started competing around Grade 12 to first year of university because he invited me to join one of his teams,”  Tran said. The two met back in high school when they went to Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Hamilton, Ont.

To date, even though the members are scattered at universities in southern Ontario now, the team has competed in numerous DOTA 2 tournaments all over the province. So far, they have won five out of six. They came in second in the last one. Tran believed that the team had prepared well this time, and was ready to bounce back.

“I want to make sure that we’ve practiced, that we don’t screw up and get nervous,” Tran said, confidently. “We’ve done this many times together as a team before.”

For teammate William Lam, who is from Mississauga, Ont. and a graduate of the University of Toronto, entering the ExtravaLANza tournament was a chance at redemption.

“I felt a little salty and wanted to get some revenge,” Lam recalled. “I asked a couple guys and we decided we were going to enter this tournament.”

Tran practiced for countless hours at home before the ExtravaLANza event.  In all, five teams competed for the $1,150 prize pool.  After playing for 10 hours, Tran’s team won. He told the Toronto Observer that he was, “not nervous at all.”

“It was a long day but we won, so everything’s all good,” Tran said, after it was over. “I feel like our hard work has paid off.”

Lam was also pleased with the victory.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into today,” Lam admitted.  “After all these games, it feels pretty good to pull some victories out.”

eSports stats
Jacqueline Thetsombandith/Toronto Observer

The number of enthusiasts of eSports continues to grow worldwide and in Canada it is no different. Haris Chaudhry, of Newmarket, Ont., is also a member the Cafe Lu Crew team. He believes that events like the AMD ExtravaLANza show the amount of interest there is in eSports, locally.

“It shows a passion for the game,” said Chaudhry, a graduate of the accounting program at Brock University. “People get really into it, it’s a lot of fun.”

Dota 2 is the highest paying eSport in the world. Dota 2 has accumulated $87,304,839 in awards worldwide, nearly $50,000,000 more than League of Legends, according to esportsearnings.com.

Thousands filled up Toronto’s Air Canada Centre in August 2016 for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), marking the first world scale event held in Toronto.   AMD ExtravaLANza 2016 is continuing this direction.  The tournament showcased Canadian teams, featuring some of the most successful eSport gamers in the country.

Planning an eSports event is quite complex and usually takes about six to eight months; however, this year’s event was constructed in record time, taking only two months to plan. One of the lead organizers, Tamir Kastiel, is sure that the event will raise awareness about the involvement which the AMD chip has in most gaming consoles. Since this event was held in AMD’s Canadian headquarters, it brought enthusiasts to see what AMD is all about.

Gamers from across Canada, as well as the States, came to compete and try their hands on new technologies. From new Visual Reality (VR) games to the newest AMD graphics cards, visitors could see and experience the future of gaming.

“They’re a lot more involved than most people give them credit for and they don’t really market or publicize that, but AMD powers a lot of eSports,” Kastiel said.

Kastiel’s company, ESChamp, runs various gaming tournaments in the city, including for DOTA 2.  He expects future tournaments to grow in attendance,  based on the popularity of ExtravaLANza 2016.

Toronto Observer’s Justin Vieira asked the production director at ESChamp about AMD’s impact on the world of eSports and what ExtravaLANza has in store for the future. (Justin Vieira/ Toronto Observer)

As for Cafe Lu Crew, even though they now can chalk up another win the tournament, and will be going home with the prize money, the five friends say it’s the overall experience that they will cherish.

“It’s the feeling of competing, working together, the highs and lows,” Chaudhry explained.

Toronto Observer’s Jonathan Yue covers Cafe Lu Crew captured the DOTA 2 tournament title, the AMD ExtravaLANza and how it brought hundreds of gamers to AMD headquarters in Markham, Ontario. (Jonathan Yue/Toronto Observer)

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