The Asia Game Festival is the evolution of what used to be the Campus Game Festival. Originally held at ITE, it was…. quaint and completely overshadowed by events such as GameStart. This year, the organisers decided to “level up” the convention and partnered with Magika to re-launch the convention as the Asia Game Festival.
Tickets were fairly affordable at $15 each and although the Asia Game Festival was billed as a gaming festival, it honestly felt like we were in cosplay Disneyland. There were A LOT of cosplayers there. I saw cosplayers from Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Warcraft and way too many more to name.
Anthony Kang, the CEO of Magika, stressed that the festival was going to be equal parts of animation/anime, cosplay, gaming, esports and music. One entire hall was dedicated to the concert featuring Japanese bands such as Girlfriend, Asaka and Underbar.
The other hall was the larger of the two and half was reserved for the PUBG tournament with the other half for the Hearthstone booth, Fifa area, the concert/ League of Legends public event and more.
Gathering for the battle ahead
The PUBG tournament also featured teams from across the region as players formed teams which battled each other during the online qualifiers. Teams which emerged victorious from the qualifiers earned a chance to compete with the best teams in the region for the grand prize of $5,000 SGD.
The PUBG tournament area was impossible to miss with a huge floor area and a massive “gate” leading into the arena.
Serving as the main stage of the Asia Game Festival, it looked and felt like an arena with many rows of high-end PC’s serving as battle stations for the competitors, complete with high-backed racing style gaming chairs.
When we walked into the area, the tension was palpable with the crew scurrying around trying to work out kinks while competitors were huddled, deep in conversation and strategizing.
Fans who had come to watch the teams compete were already reserving the best seats in the house.
Within the shadowy arena, each row of computers were partitioned off, while the giant screen which loomed over the audience had a sensible time lag to prevent teams from stream sniping and gaining an unfair advantage.
We managed to speak to some of the local competitors in between gruelling matches and they had surprisingly varying opinions about PUBG and esports opportunities within Singapore.
John* was there because he had prior experience in competitive FPS games and his friends needed a fourth player to round out their team. While he had some gripes about the organization of the competition, he enjoyed the feeling of returning to the fold but had no desire to chase the dream as he once did.
Mark* wanted very much to win and it’s his dream to play competitively. However he realized that it is a long shot and hoped that Singaporeans will be able to have a proper chance to train and advance to world stages such as Dreamhack or Blizzcon.
Anthony* was merely there to try to win some money. While he loved PUBG as a game, he feels the game has a long way to go before being able to contend with esports titans such as Counter-Strike and Quake.
Other areas also featured a League of Legends tournament on Day 2. On day one however, it was an ARAM (All Random All Mid) tournament.
At the League of Legends stage, a cosplayer representative of the festival would pick 9 lucky random people to play for a small prize. The small prize turned out to be a Pikachu plush toy.
There was a fairly large crowd which should be of no surprise as League of Legends is still one of the biggest games today with past competitions having sold out arenas such as Wimbledon and the Staples Center.
The Casual Friendly Experience
But what of the other areas? Was there anything the Asia Game Festival had to offer casual gamers or anime fans? The first thing which greeted festival goers as they enter is a booth for one of the most popular games in the world. Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft.
A popular digital card game evidenced by the crowds of players gathered throughout the day, the area was hosting a “Fireside Gathering”, allowing attendees who play at the booth to get a special card back and a Warlock hero.
I was entered into a random round robin with four other attendees and accounted for myself fairly well, winning two matches to make it into the semi-finals before being completely trounced by another player and ejected from the mini-tourney.
Another booth that pulled big crowds was the Games Workshop booth. Offering free lessons on how to paint their popular tabletop figurines. I took the offer and you can judge my resulting effort below.
“Not bad for a first-timer” a gregarious Games Workshop representative named Alan remarked as he inspected my handiwork. I was surprised that they allowed you to keep the miniatures but after all, what were they going to do with poorly painted figurines?
The purpose of them offering the lessons and figurines was to dispel the impression that painting figurines was painfully hard and to get more people involved in the cosy tabletop community in Singapore.
As much as a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe that I am, it is still a time consuming endeavour and you need to have serious dedication and passion to get really involved. But, it was still a fun way to pass 30 minutes and a Space Marine I painted now stands eternal watch over my computer.
The Fifa area was uncomfortably cramped with a large number of players standing or sitting as they waited their turn. We were shooed away by a strained looking usher to make room for the competitors to move in and out of the seats.
Despite not being able to find a good spot to watch any of the challenges, the excited yelling and cheers that erupted from beyond the partition, along with the ever growing crowd made it clear that they were having a great time.
Escaping as gracefully as we could, we were forced to follow the procession as there was no room to maneuver, and were completely at the mercy of the human tide. We passed a huge “Otaku” store selling anime memorabilia, manga and figurines from popular series.
Was it worth it?
While rough around the edges, the Asia Game Festival was an experience to be had for sure. The floor planning could have been done better as some areas were perpetually choked with people.
Exacerbating the issue was that areas only had one way in and out, creating a constant chaotic scene of people trying to get in and others trying to get out at the same time. The timing could also have been decided a little better as the festival coincided with E3 2018, the largest gaming convention in the world and it is a little hard not to draw comparisons between the two. Still, it was really packed which showed the local appetite for more events like these and we can only hope that it improves with each passing year.
Despite the human traffic jam and other things, it was tough not to have fun.
*Names were changed to maintain anonymity
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