On Holding a Gaming Tournament/Event

So the evening of the 1st of October, 2011, I held an Indie Gaming Tournament for a small group of acquaintances (residents of my dormitory). From this event, I’ve gleaned a few things regarding organizing gaming tournaments, and deciding which games will be best for play. I will outline some of the guidelines one should consider when deciding to hold such an event themselves for their friends and how such an event could be newbie friendly.

The first thing to decide when planning a tournament is the professional level. By this, I mean that you should ask yourself how important a participant’s background in gaming is. For example, a highly professional tournament would be a game such as Starcraft, Counter Strike, or even Mario Kart. In games such as these, where a fanbase and a professional player base is already established, a participant’s background in such games greatly affects the outcome of the tournament. If you have a Starcraft tournament, for example, the player that’s already Master league on his own would definitely have the strong advantage compared to the first time players or even the medium level players. This tournament becomes fairly one sided in favor of the player who has already spent that much more time on the game than anyone else.

As a result, when you decide your professional level, you decide your participant-base from the start. A highly professional tournament will involve players that are confident in their ability in that game, while a highly unprofessional tournament will involve players that need not be confident in their ability because not many others will be as well. An example of a highly unprofessional tournament would be that involving a game or genre that has a very small fanbase. In North America, genres such as roguelikes, shmups, and puzzle-platformers are good choices and even in the more popular genres, if the game is unlikely to be well known, it is a strong choice.

For my tournament, I chose to go the highly unprofessional route and included a variety of games from independent and largely unknown developers. Here, we come across the second question to ask when planning a tournament. This is the most obvious question as well, namely, game choice. Which game will you be playing? Will you play just one or multiple? But the questions don’t stop there. By asking these questions, you are ultimately asking the larger question of “Who do I want to be playing in this tournament?” This is even more important in a professional tournament than an unprofessional one because your game choice will limit certain players over others. For example, a Starcraft tournament will not attract the Counter Strike junkies and a Mario Kart tournament will not attract the Super Smash Brawl players. Of course, a multi-game tournament eliminates some of that burden. If you have a tournament that is played with multiple games, you can incorporate more people. And thus, the question still remains, who do you want playing in this tournament? If you want masters of a certain game, you aim for a more depth based tournament, while if you want everyone, even the novices, to play, you aim for a breadth tournament.

Once you are done deciding which of depth and breadth in participant base you prefer, the games you can choose become more limited. If you chose depth, you are more or less limited to single games with a strong player-base in either the game itself or the genre it is associated with. A professional depth racing tournament, for example, would play Mario Kart while an unprofessional depth racing tournament would play a lesser known game such as Proun. If you chose breadth, on the other hand, you are now limited to multiple games in varying genres. A professional breadth tournament could include Starcraft, Smash Brawl, and Counter Strike to cover the RTS, 2D fighting, and FPS genres while an unprofessional breadth tournament could do the same three genres with less played games such as Achron, Tekken, and Soldat.

At this point, breadth tournaments have additional concerns, specifically, the genres or games to include. Because a breadth tournament is not bound by a single game, there needs to be a variety of games that attract the audience you are looking for. A professional game has a slightly easier time because the games are so high profile as it stands. For a professional tournament, a new set of players is added with each additional game, so the most significant question is a matter of balancing the genres for an even spread. An unprofessional game has a harder time. Because an unprofessional tournament is meant to discourage mastery, the less popular genres must be chosen to fully include all players of all skill levels.

The tournament that I held was a highly unprofessional, breadth tournament, designed to make sure that no player had an advantage by being exposed to any of the games beforehand. Given this stringent requirement, the game choice was limited to games solely from independent developers. Another requirement for my tournament was cost, a common issue with breadth tournaments because the organizer is expected to provide the games. As such, freeware was a definite requirement with the potential of a couple games that were paid for, but had local multiplayer. In addition, the tournament required some measure of comparison between the players. This meant that the selection was once more narrowed down to fairly short, time-based or score-based games, once again limiting the genre choice.

When planning a tournament with requirements as stringent as these, it is recommended that the search begin early. If possible, it is definitely recommended to get advice from those more experienced than you and to take recommendations from definite non-participants. I started planning two months in advance and ultimately managed to find enough games to support several rounds of gaming with a standard double elimination bracket. The games I used are on the bottom of the article and I might even review a couple of them in the future.

Fortunately enough, I was able to entertain most of my participants with these games and add a little bit of diversity to their interests in gaming. And I feel satisfied at just that.


Gear (Digipen)

Redivivus (Digipen)

Proun (Joost)

Super Crate Box (Vlambeer)

Nation Red Demo (Kaos Studios)

No Time To Explain (tinybuildgames)

Jamestown (Final Form Games)

Spelunky (Mossmouth)


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