Video Game Tournament 101 (Updated for 2020)

In 2012, I released a video on YouTube called “Organize a Video Game Tournament”.

It was a different time on YouTube (this is early 2010s one-shot content at its finest). My brother even made an appearance playing trombone in the background. Production quality aside, the video contains some great tips about video game tournament styles and tips for small LAN parties with your friends.

Why are you updating this in 2020?

Despite its flaws, this nearly ten-year-old video still gets very regular viewership and ranks very well on the Google machine. So much so that on a yearly basis, I get half a dozen people reach out for tips on organizing their own video game tournaments. I had also written a companion piece that was published on a site called BlurbTech, which has been defunct now for many years.

This article summarizes the content of the video and provides some high-level insights about organizing larger tournaments in 2020. I want to reiterate that this video was meant to help organize small-scale tournaments for your friends. However, in this article, I will provide some insights on things to look out for when organizing tournaments for non-profits or individuals.

Please note that any information contained in this article is intended solely to provide guidance about video game tournaments and the reader accepts full responsibility for its use. Additionally, this article contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Let’s begin by summarizing the content of the video.

Different Tournament Styles

In the first half of the video from 2012, I presented four different styles of multi-game tournaments.

Olympic-Style Tournaments

In this style of tournament, select a limited number of games and within each game, award gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three performers in each game. If you are holding a 8-person, 5-game tournament with games in a variety of different genres, you may opt to award medals in this fashion:

Game How to Award Medals
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe All eight players play one Grand Prix, with the top three finishers receiving medals.
Towerfall Ascension Randomly place players into two pools. The top two players from each pool will move on to the finals. Award medals based on placing in the final.
Runbow The three players with the highest score after a set number of rounds win a medal. The lowest number of deaths will break any ties.
Tekken 7 Run a randomly seated, eight-person single elimination tournament. The winners receive medals.
Jackbox Party Pack 6 Play a set number of games of Trivia Murder Party 2. The players with the most wins will win medals.

At the end of the tournament, you determine the winner by the player with the most gold medals. In the case of the tie, look at a player’s silver medals and then bronze medals.

Points-Based Tournaments

Points-based tournaments are more complex, but offer a lot more freedom in their structures. The biggest advantage is that you can “weight” your games; games that your group likes more can provide more points. You can even award a small number of points for warm-up games or provide bonuses. The biggest disadvantage is the subjectivity that comes with weighting some games more than others. If you are holding a 8-person, 5-game tournament in this style, you could weight games like this:

Game How to Award Points
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe All eight players play one Grand Prix, with the top three finishers receive points (1st = 3 points, 2nd = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point).
Halo: The Master Chief Collection All eight players play Slayer in Halo 1. Points awarded based on placing (1st = 3 points, 2nd = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point). Ties go to the least amount of deaths.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Players take turns in the game’s 10m Platform Diving (1964) event; the winner with the highest score after everyone gets a turn is the winner (1st place = 1 point).
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Monkey Target mode; everyone plays the same map. The highest score after everyone gets a turn is the winner (1st place = 1 point).
Tetris Ultimate Ultra Mode; the player with the highest score after three minutes is the winner (1st place = 1 point).
Eliminatory-style Tournaments like the Omegathon

Ever since I saw the Omegathon video game tournament at PAX West, I was hooked on the format. Essentially, you set up your game in rounds and after every subsequent round, the worst players from that round are eliminated. You could structure an eight-person, five-round elimination tournament in the following way:

Round Game How to Eliminate Players Eliminations
1 Super Bomberman R Create two pools of 4 players. A win means that you are safe. When each pool only has 2 players left, combine the pools. Six players will get wins while the 2 players that do not are eliminated from the competition. 2
2 Lumines Remastered Six players take turns playing Time Attack mode; the 2 players with the lowest scores are eliminated. 2
3 Gang Beasts Create a local 4-player game. A win means that you are safe. The player who does get a win is eliminated from the competition. 1
4  Jenga The player that knocks over the tower is eliminated. 1
5  Nidhogg 2 A 1 vs. 1 affair, the player to win a best of 3 competition wins the tournament. 1
Team-based Tournaments

Essentially, any one of the styles that I had identified before can be done with individual competitors or with team of 2/3/4 or more! Just note that the games and their respective modes may need to be changed in order to accommodate more players.

My top ten video game tournament party tips! 

Within the original video, I proposed a series of tips for making sure that your video game tournament with friends goes off without a hitch. Many of these tips are still relevant today, but others have been updated to reflect the changes in technology, for instance. Again, please note that these tips are more meant for friendly multi-game tournaments that you may organize with your friends.

1) Be Prepared

First, write out a games list and set up the game configurations on paper before the big day. This list will allow you to determine what consoles, controllers, games and cables will be needed for the event. From there, assign people to bring these items in advance.

2) Bring Extra Equipment

In my experience, some items are pulled out of storage and used without being tested before the big day. Make sure you have extra batteries, cables and even controllers on hand to deploy in case of trouble.

3) Have a Transparent and Easy-To-Understand Scoring System

During play, you want your friends to focus on the games and not the complexity of the scoreboard. This is why I am a fan of the Olympic and Omegathon styles; they lead to less confusion. In addition, make sure everyone is aware of the score and how it was calculated at all times; it reduces moaning and groaning at the end.

4) Make It Fun

Don’t be a control freak. Keep the night short and let people chill. This is for fun after all! Based on my experience, I recommend a 3-4 hour tournament. That way there’s time to catch up before the games begin and hang out afterwards.

5) Have Your Friends Pay a Couple Bucks for Food/Drink

For the last tournament that I held many years ago, I asked that everyone pay 2 dollars at the door. With that money (11 people), I bought five bags of chips and three cases of pop. You should always serve finger foods to your guests — just avoid messy snacks like Cheetos, for example.

6) Sit Out the First Time

For the evening to run smoothly during your inaugural tournament, you might want to sit out to problem-solve and keep the peace/pace as the night goes on.

7) Don’t Play Too Many Games

During my first tournaments, we would try to fit in 13-14 games. That is way too many. People will get bored and complain (especially if their favourite game is last). Try to keep your tournament to 5-8 games.

8) Eight People to Start; Expand to Twelve When Comfortable

This is a perfect number to start. Not too big or small. When choosing a number of people to invite to your tournament, think of hardware/software needs, your space and the tournament style.

9) Adding a New Game? Keep it Simple!

If you’re going to add a game to your tournament that no one has ever played, try to avoid a complicated game like Street Fighter V, for example. That game requires players to memorize a lot of combo to be effective. In a past tournament, I added Bomberman Live and people loved it because of how simple it was.

10) A Note about Controllers

In the video from 2012, I made a joke about how wired controllers were a thing of the past and wireless controllers should be standard at your tournament. In professional fighting game tournaments, wireless controllers may be discouraged or banned. For a small tournament with friends, co-workers, camp members or your child’s friends, wireless controllers should be fine. Just note that wireless controllers come with a set of small drawbacks, like limited range, for instance.

Organizing tournaments for the community

As I mentioned previously, I get a lot of questions about organizing tournaments at non-profit organizations, summer camps and for profit. Although this is not the focus of the article, I wanted to go through some high-level insights that you should consider before organizing your own tournaments for members of the community.

Multi-game tournaments are hard to organize for large groups

If you are organizing a game tournament at a camp or school/youth/church group, the guidance provided above should work for you as long as you can operate the tournament in the same physical space. Multi-game tournaments held for groups larger than 16 are exceedingly difficult, especially for groups of strangers.

For-profit game tournaments are very difficult

Organizing video game tournaments are not get-rich-quick schemes, they are difficult to organize, promote and monetize. It may take years for an organizer to build a positive reputation and profitable tournaments and this reputation can be spoiled in a single day.

Monetizing your tournaments

If you do decide to move forward and organize a for-profit tournament, you will need to monetize the event. Now, monetization could be the subject of a whole other article, but here are a few of the ways that a tournament can be monetized:

  • An entry fee: this is the most common way to defray the cost of putting on a tournament
  • A VIP package: charge a higher fee for a limited number of competitors and include some exclusive benefits like getting into the venue an hour early to practice or tournament-exclusive merchandise, for example.
  • Sponsors: monetary sponsors in gaming will likely be hard to come by for smaller tournaments. Create a sponsorship document and spell out exactly what a sponsor will receive for supporting your tournament. If cash donations are difficult to obtain, think about services that can be donated in-kind from potential sponsors (food, A/V equipment or venue).
  • Community partnerships: think about organizations that you can partner with to promote your event(s): your local college’s esports program is one example!
  • A Twitch presence: if you plan to hold more than one event, start a Twitch account. Monetization on Twitch isn’t permitted without obtaining Affiliate status, but streaming your tournaments may lead to Affiliate status. Twitch will not be your only form of revenue, but may be a small income stream that you can depend on.
Online tournaments are difficult to manage

I have received questions about organizing sports game tournament via PlayStation Network or Xbox Live. There are a ton of factors that make this type of event extremely difficult (coordinating players, cheating, connection issues). Hardware and software requirements are very high as well, so try and avoid it if you can.

Conclusion

I hope that you found this article helpful to the organization of your first video game tournament. If you used any of the tips in this article, share it and tag me! I’m @JacobMcCourt on all major social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! If you like video games, consider giving my podcast a listen. It’s called the Left Behind Game Club and on the show, we apply the book club model to video games by playing games from years past and talking about them. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and all major podcasting platforms.

Sony Acquiring Spider-Man Developer Insomniac Games

Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) announced that they intend to purchase Insomniac Games. Insomniac will join SIE Worldwide Studios (WWS); this group includes Guerrilla Games, Media Molecule, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch Productions and more.

The studio has worked with Sony for over twenty years. This acquisition builds off the immense success of 2018’s runaway smash Marvel’s Spider-Man which went has gone on to sell over 13 million copies since its release. We gave the game an 8.7 when it was first released.

Beginning in 1998, the team launched their first project with Sony, Spyro: The Dragon. After two successful sequels, the team created a new successful mascot-driven platformer: Ratchet & Clank in 2002. The studio would go on to create more beloved franchises for Sony and other partners (including Resistance and Sunset: Overdrive). Outside of releasing titles for Sony and Microsoft platforms, the team has created games for VR and mobile platforms.

Shawn Layden, the Charman of the SIE WWS group indicated in a press release today that SIE is “…thrilled to officially welcome them to the Worldwide Studios family. The addition of Insomniac Games to SIE WWS reiterates our commitment to developing world class gaming experiences that can only be found on the PlayStation platform.”

Ted Price, founder and CEO of Insomniac Games, shared a heartfelt message on the company’s website that shares his continued vision for the studio for the years to come; “today merely marks the beginning of a new chapter in our studio’s growth and evolution. We’re excited to put Insomniac in the best position to deliver fresh experiences for our fans for many years to come.”

Many of the other studios that form the SIE WWS group were quick to congratulate the team at Insomniac.

The 2010 Experiment

You use a smartphone, right? I mean, who doesn’t? If you don’t, you’re usually seen as a bit of a social pariah. But do we ever stop to think about the use of these devices?

Humour me for a second.

Read More

10 Games We Should Play on the Left Behind Game Club

My friends and I started a podcast three months ago. You can check it out on iTunes and Google Play. On the show, we talk about the games we may have missed, play them and try to re-create the feeling of picking it up on the first day and talking about it with your friends.

On the show, we take turns picking the games we play and I had a great time with my first two picks: Gone Home and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I’ve thought long and hard and picked 10 more games that I would really like to play for the podcast. While selecting the games, I tried to focus on games from Gen 7 that are easily obtained. In addition, I tried to pick games that are either very important to me or games that I haven’t played that were very popular at the time of their release. Let’s get on with the list!

Ghost Trick (DS, iOS)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

I’m a fan of the Phoenix Wright series. The team behind those games also made Ghost Trick – a game where you take control of inanimate objects in order to solve puzzles. As a ghost. Since I would never be able to convince Moe to play Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999), this is the closest that I will get to that.

Brutal Legend (X360, PS3, PC, MacOS and Linux)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

Psychonauts is one of my ten favourite games. No doubt. Double Fine, the developer of the game made two really big games before they started to develop smaller games: Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. I have no interest in heavy metal musically or ecstatically, but as a big fan of Double Fine’s titles like Broken Age and Costume Quest, I want to play Brutal Legend. Part real-time strategy and part action-adventure, it should be a lot of fun. Plus, Jack Black.

Spec Ops: The Line (X360, PS3, PC, MacOS and Linux)

Played It?

Yes.

Why should we play?

Spec Ops: The Line may be one of the biggest surprises in video games. From a mechanical perspective, it’s a very competent third person shooter. However, the game’s magic lies within the narrative. I don’t want to spoil anything – but it builds to a very satisfying ending.

Virginia (PS4, Xbox One, PC and MacOS)

Played It?

Yes.

Why should we play?

Virginia is a very succinct experience, has a beautiful soundtrack and contains the best sequence in a game from the past five years. Fight me on that. Plus, after the conclusion of the sub-two-hour game, it stuck with me for weeks.

Advance Wars (GBA, Wii U)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

Intelligent Systems makes so pretty great games (WarioWare, Cubivore, Paper Mario) and I adore the Fire Emblem series. My younger brother liked the Advance Wars games a lot, but I could never get into them. Smart strategy that you can even play on the Wii U. Let’s do it.

Valiant Hearts (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Android, Xbox One and PS4)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

Valiant Hearts came out of the UbiArt initiative at Ubisoft. A puzzle game with an incredibly unique aesthetic and a dog that could rip a man’s heart out. Can we take Valiant Hearts home with us…? Please?

To The Moon (PC, Mac and Linux)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

I really like love stories and when reading the critical response about “To The Moon”, the players of the game often talk about how meaningful the story was to them. The two sentence plot is explained by Free Bird Games as follows.

“This particular story follows Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts’ attempt to fulfill the dream of the dying elderly man, Johnny. In their mission to do so, they traverse backwards through the man’s memories, unfolding his curious life story before their eyes.”

I want to have a good video game cry like I did when we played through Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox 360, PC, Mac)

Played It?

Yes.

Why should we play?

People always talk about Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow or Chaos Theory. While I think those are phenomenal games (especially the multiplayer), I think that Splinter Cell: Conviction with its focus on action-stealth instead of stealth-action made for a way funner game to play. If you screw up, improvise and see if you can get out of the situation.

The Wolf Among Us (PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mac, PC, iOS and Android)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

I really like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and with the announcement of the second season of The Wolf Among Us, I want to dive into this dark video game adaptation of Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novels. Plus, I bought this game on two different platforms and tried to start it twice. Third time is the charm.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GC)

Played It?

No.

Why should we play?

I love the idea of this game so much that I own two copies of the game (my adoration of Intelligent Systems is shining through once again). After playing through Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 and most of Super Paper Mario on the Wii, I need to give this one a shot. This game was never re-launched for any system besides the Gamecube, so if this game is too hard to find, I may settle for Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

There you have it! Ten games that we should play for the Left Behind Game Club. It was hard to get down to ten – but I did.

If you made it this far, you should definitely check out our podcast, The Left Behind Game Club on iTunes and Google Play. For more nonsense just like this, you can follow me on Twitter @JacobMcCourt. Let me know what you thought of my list.

Oscar Thoughts 2017

Here’s a collection of my thoughts from the 2017 Oscar Season!

Predictions:

Who/What Will Win (Who/What I Liked The Most)

BEST PICTURE: La La Land (Manchester by the Sea)
BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle (Damien Chazelle)
BEST ACTOR: Denzel Washington (Casey Affleck)
BEST ACTRESS: Emma Stone (Emma Stone)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Lucas Hedges (Jeff Bridges) #rememberrylance
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis (Michelle Williams)

My Preferences:

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. La La Land
  3. Fences
  4. Hacksaw Ridge
  5. Lion
  6. Moonlight
  7. Hell or High Water
  8. Hidden Figures
  9. Arrival

Podcasts:

Post-Viewing Thoughts:

Hidden Figures (Theatre): Three women defy the odds at NASA in the 60s. I started off with a great one. I was immediately taken by Janelle Monaé. Her performances in Moonlight and Hidden Figures are her FIRST. I should have known by how expressive she is in her music videos that she would slay in Hidden Figures. Just a powerhouse cast: Ali, Parsons, Dunst, Costner, Henson, Spencer. Outside of Monaé, I particularly enjoyed Mahershala Ali and Kirsten Dunst. And that soundtrack from Pharrell had me smiling after the first track.

Hacksaw Ridge (Theatre): Didn’t know much going into the movie… but boy was I impressed by the film. The movie tells the story of Desmond Doss, a combat medic who is also a pacifist. Split into two parts it tells the story of why he is “the way he is” and how that affects his role in the battle at Hacksaw Ridge during WWII. The two standouts were obviously Andrew Garfield and VINCE VAUGHN. Andrew Garfield is nominated for Best Actor for a reason. Simple is complex. The character he plays is a simple man in conviction, but simple as an actor is never easy. He became someone else entirely. And Vince Vaughn. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him in a serious role before – and he brought a sliver of what makes him “Vince Vaughn” to the role of an army Sergeant. Also… the MOST battlefield choreography I’ve seen in a movie in recent memory. Thumbs up.

La La Land (Theatre): La La Land is movie about Hollywood for Hollywood. Yup. It is. Uh-huh. That’s not a bad thing. Trust me. So Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in a musical about trying to make it in Hollywood. Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz musician and Emma Stone as a struggling actress. They have undeniable on-screen… watch Gosling lift Stone in Crazy, Stupid Love and tell me otherwise. People keep pointing to the performance by Emma Stone, but I enjoyed Gosling a little more and that takes a lot for me to say because of how much I love Emma in Crazy Stupid Love, Easy A, Birdman… the list continues. Not only that but these two can dance… my word. John Legend played a character not just a musician. Yay. I really noticed the colour in the movie (and maybe because we are studying it in class a little bit) and also the sets and locations where the movie was shot. I’m sure that the soundtrack will be on repeat for me for the next few days. Here’s the skinny for those of you who are on the fence. If you don’t like musicals and don’t like “film” there still may be something here for you to latch onto. It’s not super out there from a content perspective… it’s a simple story that builds to a really nice ending. I like musicals – so that’s my slant.

Hell or High Water (Apple Rental): Simple movies are good movies. With simple movies comes not much to say… look… Hell or High Water is a simple movie with one plot and a couple of simple sub-plots that fit with the main plot. This one is much like Sicario last year (perhaps because the screenwriter for this one is the same as Sicario). Chris Pine was good. Ben Foster was great. They play brothers who begin robbing banks. Foster, an ex-con recently released plays the unhinged brother and Pine plays the straight shooter. I won’t spoil why the brother start robbing banks (it’s kind of what makes the movie). Jeff Bridges was great as the law-man trying to chase the brothers down despite sounding like he had a mouth full of marbles at certain points. It was interesting to see how some of the themes came to affect the plot… especially the open-carry and stand-your-ground laws as well as the US banking system. I’m calling my Dad to tell him to watch Hell or Hell Water. It’s pretty good. Kind of makes me think about my time in Texas and what would have happened if I went into a bank…

Arrival (Apple Rental): Sometimes we all have difficulty offering an opinion. I just ramble-recorded for 7 minutes about the way I felt after watching “Arrival”. And I probably won’t do much better with a written critique, but here goes nothing. Arrival looks and sounds great. I may be biased but the costumes look great – especially the scientists’ helmets 😃. It was shot outside of Montreal and the locations were all great. The manufactured sounds for the aliens were great and the language that was created for the terrestrial beings in this movie was neat – something that I’m sure that I’ll read about. But look, this movie was a slow burn. It’s based off a short story – and there isn’t much that happens in the first hour. Not every movie has to punch up the action from minute one, but the build doesn’t lead to a pay-off that I adored. Amy Adams was fine. Jeremy Renner was fine. Adored him in The Town. I don’t know… it was okay? Curious to know your thoughts.

Manchester by the Sea (Windsor International Film Festival): I watched Manchester by the Sea for the second time. You want to get punched in the emotion sack? Watch this. If you’re sad or mad – this movie is just going to make it worse. Casey Affleck brings it in all respect. He’s gone through so much crap and all of that crap has made him into a guy that barely functions. Without spoiling much, he delivers an emotional, powerful and believable performance. Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams were great. There’s one scene where Michelle Williams travels through about a half dozen emotions in less than 60 seconds and it was still great the second time. I can’t decide if this is my favourite this year or not. The great part are the moments of humour that are sprinkled throughout the dread… some of them are genuine belly laughs, but I’m not sure if it’s the Boston accent or the moment itself. Also… we had snacks and I drank Mello Yello.

Fences (Theatre): A man is beaten down, scorned and disadvantaged for his entire life. He takes that emotional baggage with him and tries to create a life for those around him that was better than his life. In the process of working to create something better than what he received, he leaves a path of destruction in his wake. Like many of the other movies I’ve watched in the past few weeks, I try to go in with the least amount of information possible. Before I even saw that Fences was based on a play in the closing credits, I already knew. It just felt like a play – but that comment shouldn’t take away from Fences. It’s tremendous. I thought Denzel would steal the show and even though there were scenes that he did, especially in the beginning, Viola Davis came through. As did Joven Adepo who played one of Denzel’s sons. When this one hits your favourite movie streaming service in March – please watch it. I probably shouldn’t have watched Manchester by the Sea yesterday and follow it up with this – but thems the breaks. My emotion sack has been working overtime in the past few days.

Moonlight (Apple Movies): This is the story of a lifetime.
Moonlight tells the story of how shy teenager was bullied and persecuted based on his sexuality in Miami. That bullying lead to a single decision that altered the main character’s path for the rest of his life. I appreciated how grounded the depictions of sexuality were within the movie. I hope that Moonlight connects with anyone that may have struggled with their own identity at some point their life. Not only that, I appreciated the care in ensuring that the character traits were well-shared between the three actors portraying the main character. Finally, both Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae are having one hell of a year…

Lion (Apple Movies): This is the last one. And a pretty good one to end with. Lion starts with five-year-old Saroo in Khandwa, India. Lion shares a plot device with Moonlight – in that the main character makes a snap decision that alters his life forever. In this one, Saroo ends up on a train that takes him over 1500 kilometres from home. He’s taken in by the state and adopted by an Australian family. The story is a little tropey – but it’s based on a true story. After being beaten down by Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight and Fences all in a row – it was nice to be uplifted. Again – based on a true story, but the focus on relationship between Rooney Mara and Dev Patel didn’t seem necessary. It’s only thread of the movie that didn’t fit to me. I’m a big fan of Dev Patel (The Newsroom, Slumdog Millionaire) and he doesn’t disappoint in this one. Nicole Kidman was great but to me young Sunny Pawar stole the show as the younger version of Dev Patel’s character. If you want a smile just watch his introduction of Lion from the Golden Globes or go see pictures of him from WWE Monday Night Raw from a few days ago. I’ll post one more time about the Oscars before Sunday… then you won’t see movie reviews again for a while. 🙂