It may seem strange to travel to a foreign country to watch people play a game on a screen, but live eSports events are no joke. The major tournaments frequently outperform both the NBA Finals and World Series in viewership, and with sponsors like HP, Samsung, T-Mobile and Toyota, money is flowing in to create dedicated spaces where fans can cheer for their favorite teams.
For those who want to blend their passion for the real world with their passion for virtual ones, the below cities regularly host internationally renowned gaming tournaments as well as boast some of the globe’s most iconic sights.
Seoul, South Korea
Top of any list of gaming tournament locales is going to be Seoul, as South Korea has been the unequivocal dominator of competitive gaming for two decades. As the first country to broadcast eSports on television, the best competitors, studios, and commentators are all found here. And unlike in most other countries, Korea has a vibrant and visible audience who make attending any gaming event a high-energy experience. For one example, Sangam Stadium hosted over 40,000 fans for the 2014 League of Legends World Championship.
Since eSports is so prevalent in Seoul, you can visit at practically any time of the year and find a selection of local, regional and international competitions for a variety of games. I recommend going in winter. After exploring the snowy mountains of Bukhansan National Park, you can get cozy inside watching the best pro-gamers in the world play a few matches.
The French eSports community is relatively small but passionate, and the nation’s capital is home to the Electronic Sports World Convention (ESWC). Though they host tournaments 3-5 times a year across all inhabited continents, the ESWC Paris Games Week is the 4th biggest video games trade show in the world and a major event every October.
And while spring in Paris gets all the glory, autumn is equally charming, as this is the time of year for new films, exhibits and other events aimed at locals rather than tourists (like the annual art show FIAC). After watching teams battle it out in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone and Street Fighter tournaments, get some fresh air by strolling beneath the season’s radiant foliage in the city’s plethora of parks.
Los Angeles, USA
While the Staples Center hosted 12,000 fans for the 2013 League of Legends World Championship, it’s the 1-year-old Blizzard Arena that bumped Los Angeles higher up the list of important eSports destinations. The arena is home to the Overwatch League, the professional gaming league of Blizzard Entertainment’s enormously popular game Overwatch and, true to LA’s celebrity culture, the venue used to be the studio of Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. Located a stone’s throw away from both NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Studios, a visit to this arena is easy to combine with other must-see sights in and around Hollywood.
As a bonus, Santa Ana (an hour outside of Los Angeles) is home to the Esports Arena, the first venue dedicated to competitive gaming in North America. The owner of the venue has announced plans for up to 15 other Esports Arena locations in North America and China over the next few years, including in the Las Vegas’ Luxor Hotel & Casino. If the industry continues growing this way, soon you won’t need to travel far at all to catch a pro-gaming tournament.
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An Irish-American residing in Singapore, Laura Jane O’Gorman Schwartz is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Shanghai Literary Review.
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