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GameStart growing in size and stature

A crowd gathers to watch the finals of the Overwatch tournament. Besides such tournaments, GameStart featured booths by console-makers Sony and Microsoft, where gamers could get hands-on time with the latest games.
A crowd gathers to watch the finals of the Overwatch tournament. Besides such tournaments, GameStart featured booths by console-makers Sony and Microsoft, where gamers could get hands-on time with the latest games.ST PHOTO: LISABEL TING

This year's gaming covention sees increased visitor figures, exhibitors, content variety

It was a battle of friends at the finals of the one-versus-one Fifa 17 video game tournament at GameStart Asia on Sunday.

On one side of the virtual football pitch was Mr Muhamad Ashrul Noor Muhammad, a 20-year-old student. On the other was Mr Muhammad Ruzaini Abdul Aziz, his friend and training buddy.

"Because we play together so much, we know each other's weaknesses and strengths," said Mr Ashrul. "I think playing against a friend is harder, because he might try something unexpected, or keep a strategy hidden to surprise you."

However, Mr Ashrul managed to keep his cool and come out tops, bagging a cash prize of $1,000. He said: "I think my friend was probably more nervous than I was, because this was his first time playing on the big stage."

The Fifa 17 tournament was just one of many eSports events that took place last Friday to Sunday at the third edition of GameStart, an annual gaming convention.

The three-day event at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre saw 20,000 attendees, up from 17,000 last year.

The homegrown event, which is now in its third year, is currently the flagbearer of gaming conventions here.

GOING REGIONAL

Perhaps, we can even take GameStart out into the region, but that's just a dream at the moment!

MS ELICIA LEE, founder and organiser of the GameStart gaming convention

Ms Elicia Lee, founder and organiser of the convention, said that GameStart has not just increased in visitorship, but in the variety of content as well. She said: "We had more exhibitors this year, who brought both digital and analogue games, as well as gaming-related products, art, cosplay and more to the show."

Aside from tournaments for games such as Street Fighter V and Overwatch, GameStart featured booths by console-makers Sony and Microsoft, where gamers could get hands-on time with the latest games.

There was also a strong Singaporean presence at the show, as homegrown game developers such as Witching Hour Studios exhibited their works, and local companies such as gaming chair manufacturer Secretlab and peripherals manufacturer Armaggeddon held events and showcased their wares.

Student Irfan Zaack, 17, enjoyed visiting the artists' booths, and watching tournaments for games such as Overwatch and Fifa 17. He said: "The events that were taking place and the cosplayers walking around really made the atmosphere amazing."

Gamers also got a first look at unreleased titles, such as the virtual- reality version of Stifled, a horror game by local studio Gattai Games.

For student Eugenia Lee Wen, 19, trying out Stifled was her first time playing a virtual-reality game.

"It was a really cool experience, albeit slightly dizzying," she said.

Others, like student and Final Fantasy fan Luke Tham, 17, wanted to get a sneak peek at upcoming blockbuster titles. He was at GameStart to try Final Fantasy XV, which will be released next month. "There are videos and trailers for the game, but nothing beats trying it out first hand," he said.

While this year's GameStart is just over, Ms Elicia Lee is already looking towards the next few editions. "GameStart is constantly evolving, and we listen to feedback from our visitors and exhibitors on what they want to see, do and buy at the event, so that guides a lot of our planning," she said.

"I'd like to continue growing the eSports component of the show, while continuing to bring in the latest technology and games for visitors to try out."

In future, GameStart may expand beyond just Singapore.

Ms Lee added: "Perhaps, we can even take GameStart out into the region, but that's just a dream at the moment!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'GameStart growing in size and stature'. Print Edition | Subscribe