From humble beginnings: competitive gaming makes its primetime debut at the Queen City Ex thanks to SKL Esports

From humble beginnings: competitive gaming makes its primetime debut at the Queen City Ex thanks to SKL Esports

August 2, 2019

SKL Esports

Pro gaming is big news these days with young players making headlines for taking home eyepopping amounts of prize money that many of us could only dream of.

While gaming’s increasing popularity and the rising excitement around huge prize pools probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone, what might be is just how close to home tournaments like these are thanks to dedicated gamers like the seven friends and founders behind SKL Esports.

In its fourth year, the young esports company is making a name for itself in the gaming community by hosting major and minor tournaments across Saskatchewan and Alberta including this year’s Queen City Ex!

Each day, the SKL Esports area located in Hall A of the International Trade Centre features a different mix of games for visitors to play while taking in competitive action from qualifiers for the main tournaments.

“It’s honestly surreal how far its grown,” said Kevin Bode, one of SKL Esports co-founders, site admin, and typical tournament emcee. “In 2015 we were doing stuff kind of out of a friends basement using a ping pong table with everything set up on it as our home base, and now to have grown to where we are doing events like here at the Queen City Ex with this huge stage, or like we did at the West Edmonton Mall in October, or the SaskTel Centre and all these amazing venues is surreal.”

When asked what was driving their success, Kevin feels it’s sticking to the reasons they founded the company in the first place: they want to build a wider sense of community for gamers in Western Canada and give them the chance to share in that community at live and online local tournaments hosted much closer to home than Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal.

“For a lot of people video games have always been big, and everyone just wants other people to share their interests with,” said Kevin. “It’s really about building that community that may not have existed before. Some people may view gaming as just a solitary thing, but it’s totally about community. Gamers want to play the games they like with others, they want to compete, they want to talk about the games they love.”

Dylan Edgar, SKL Esports’ co-founder and Director of Live Events and Sponsorship, shares the same feeling. “We played in a bunch of tournaments back in 2015 as a bunch of friends of ours and there just wasn’t a lot of it here,” said Dylan. “So, a bunch of buddies hung out one night and we said that we should start a tournament series.”

And that idea stuck. It wasn’t long before the group including co-founders; Carter Astleford, Bailey Dietrich, Max Garies, Matthew Rousseaux, and Blake Zanidean; hosted their first tournament in 2015. Deciding to launch with Riots’ popular League of Legends, they managed to get 32 teams signed up.

While the initial goal may have been simply to provide more opportunities to play in tournaments locally, things have steadily grown; with SKL Esports gathering a dedicated audience of competitive gamers and die-hard fans who keep coming back for their events. Some players have been regularly attending since the very first tournament, and with each new event more familiar faces seem be there each time.

Part of the growth can be attributed to the team behind SKL Esports willingness to embrace the wider gaming community as a whole. For them, this has meant branching into a wide variety of esports games beyond League of Legends and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. to include massive hits like Activision-Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Epic Games Fortnite, and thanks to a new partnership with Ubisoft they’ve recently introduced tournaments for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.

“It’s been a long process,” said Dylan. “We’ve had really good partners along the way. IKS Media has been helpful since day one [and] SaskTel provides internet all the time. But as long as people keep coming to events, we will continue to keep growing it!”

And now the team has reached its biggest stage yet with SKL Esports participation at the Queen City Ex. With close to 50 computers setup for the players, a main stage and more giant screens then you can count, the tournament venue offers eyewatering views of the intense action from anywhere inside the International Trade Centre’s Hall A.

Want to take-in some of the tournament action or take in the atmosphere and excitement? Be sure to check out the event schedule below or tune in to the tournament live stream on Twitch.

Event Schedule:

Wednesday, July 31st: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. 

  • 12:00-8:00 PM: 8-player Free Play.
  • 12:00-8:00 PM: 200cc Time Trial Challenge. Track to be announced day of the event. Fastest time of the day will win a $25 Nintendo Switch eShop gift card!
  • 12:00-8:00 PM: 1 vs. 1 Station.
  • 12:00-8:00 PM: Challenge a Mario Kart 8 DX World Record Holder, Skilloz.
  • Open consoles will be on throughout the day and will feature other Mario Kart games.

Thursday, August 1st: League of Legends.

  • 12:00-3:00 PM: 1 vs. 1 King of the Hill.
  • 3:00-4:00 PM: 1 vs. 1 Against an SKL Admin.
  • 4:00-5:00 PM: 2 vs. 2 Against SKL Admins.
  • 5:00-8:00 PM: 2 vs. 2 King of the Hill.
  • Open consoles will be available and will feature old school video games.

Friday, August 2nd: Fortnite. Come watch the championship playoffs hosted by Matrix Gaming! Pre-registration is required. For full tournament details please visit the Saskatchewan Fortnite Championship homepage.

  • 3:00-5:00 PM: Play Smash Against Smash Pros or take in the Smash panel to learn their tips and tricks! Let them ask to play you first!
  • 5:00-9:00 PM: Saskatchewan Fortnite Finals Presented by Matrix Gaming. Find out who will be crowned as Saskatchewan’s Top Fortnite player and take home $7,500.
  • Open consoles will be available and will feature Super Smash Bros.

Saturday, August 3rd – Sunday, August 4th: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Smashfest 5). Pre-register to sign up for a $10,000 prize pool tournament.

Sat. August 3rd, 2019

  • 11:00 AM: Doors Open
  • 11:30 AM: Squad Strike / Doubles Starts
  • 1:00 PM: Ultimate Singles Starts
  • 5:00-8:00 PM: Squad Strike / Doubles Top 8

Sun. August 4th, 2019

  • 12:00 PM: Ultimate Top 64 Starts
  • 4:00 PM: Ultimate Top 8 Starts
  • Open consoles will be available and will feature Super Smash Bros

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