OP Live 2018: Bringing Esports and Education into the Spotlight

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OP Live 2018

OP Live 2018 is an esports convention in their inaugural year that took place in Dallas, TX. I have been to plenty of esports conventions over the years, but OP Live 2018 did something that was very unique and different from your conventional esports LAN. As a convention, they focused on the educational side of professional gaming, whether it was a workshop designed for parents and how they can get involved or a presentation on how to get your university to set up an esports program they had it all.

I am a big fan of using gaming in education settings so when I got to chance to see it on display all weekend, it was really an amazing sight.  I don’t want to say that other conventions are not highlighting education and all the benefits of gaming, but OP Live put it at the forefront of their convention.

The Workshops

The workshops were divided into regular workshops that were your usual panel type talks that included talks with professionals on their careers in gaming or an informative talk into game design and what OP Live 2018 called “Parent Workshops”; these were designed for parents and their children to educate them on how gaming be a positive influence in their lives. There were six of these workshops so a parent had multiple chances to see what all gaming can offer their child. This to me was something I found very useful and quite unique to the convention as it is one thing to get kids informed and give them information, but at least in my opinion a whole different level to encourage parents and design talks just for the parents themselves. As esports continues to grow and expand it is vital to inform the parents of these kids of all the things that gaming brings and to see a convention set aside six talks specifically for the parents was amazing to see.

A list of the Parent Workshops:
  • Parent Workshop: Social Communities in Games by Eli Luna
  • Parent Workshop: Debunking Video Game Myths by Robert Atkins
  • Parent Workshop:  ExtraLife & Children’s Miracle Network
  • Parent Workshop: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Esports by Lean Mateos
  • Parent Workshop: Career Opportunities in Games by Adam Radford
  • Parent Workshop: How My Education Helps Me at Gearbox by Mario Rodriguez

OP Live 2018: The Powered Talks

OP Live 2018
Mark ” Garvey” Candella presenting at a “Powerd Talk” at OP Live Dallas

OP Live 2018 also hosted, what they called “Powered Talks.” In these 10-15 presentations, a speaker would present on the main stage. It was the first time I had ever seen something like this and I thought it was an innovative idea. In the past, I have definitely been one of those attendees who wanted to attend a panel only to realize it was in a building two blocks away and just did not feel like going the distance for the panel (I apologize, panelists, it happens). The whole concept behind this was to make the speakers, and the conversation about the community they were having. be accessible for attendees and helping the presenters. I have been to plenty of panels where the presenter walks into 5 people in the crowd and it can be disheartening.

By bringing them to the main stage, their audience was already there and ready to go. This allowed people to be at the main stage watching their favorite teams play and not have to worry about running to the panel room because it was going to be presented right there. They also made it to where you could be strolling the expo floor and still be able to hear the panelist from the main stage. Overall it was a win-win for both attendees and presenters. I thought it was a great idea and that it was well executed.

My favorite Powered Talks were by Mark ” Garvey” Candella and John Davidson which were very educational and informative. Garvey’s talk was about how using Twitch is good to help build successful esports programs. It also focused on how successful esports programs can help universities and their students. Davidson’s was about the creation of the Esports Trade Association and how esports is bigger than just professional gamers.

 A List of Powe+red Talks:
  • Powered Talk:  Tyler Schrodt (EGF)
  • Powered Talk: Geoff Moore (the Dallas Fuel)
  • Powered Talk: Aaron “Aero” Atkins (the Dallas Fuel)
  • Powered Talk: Kevin Hoang (Twitch) 
  • Powered Talk: Mark “Garvey” Candella (Twitch)
  • Powered Talk: John Davidson (GameStop)
  • Powered Talk: Charles Egenbacher (Epic Games)
  • Powered Talk: Ryan Musselman (Triggerfish/Infinite Esports & Entertainment)

OP Live 2018: The Overwatch Tournament


OP Live 2018

The main event for OP Live was a little different from most esports conventions. Instead of a massive stage that only showcased professional players,  they decided to follow the education theme and make the main event a collegiate Overwatch tournament. I have seen plenty of collegiate esports tournaments over the years, but I can say this is the first time that collegiate players had a chance to shine as they are usually thrown to the side stages.

For the tournament, they took 16 collegiate teams and divided them into 4 groups and the top two winners from each group stage went into a single elimination knock out stage. The tournament was a great opportunity for college kids to showcase their gaming skills and win awards for gaming. This was the first time that a lot of these kids had ever been to a LAN to play in front of a convention crowd. This was also a great chance to gain exposure and help their programs.

The winner ended up being one of the hometown teams, University of North Texas,  3-2 over University of Oklahoma in dramatic fashion as they came back from the brink of elimination down 2 games to 1 in the series.

SMU Guildhall

One of the partners of OP Live was the SMU Guildhall. For people not familiar with them, they are the #1 school in the world for game design – so if you or anyone you know is interested in-game design this is the holy grail of game development programs. This was by far one of the largest booths I have seen given to an educational program at a convention and allowed for them to showcase some of their games designed by their students, along with doing a few workshops at their booth. 

They had alumni there as presenters along with current students. I know this was in SMU’s backyard, but for OP Live to be able to partner with such a prestigious program just once again showed that they really wanted to put education in the forefront. We got a chance to meet some of them there and they really are the real deal when comes to knowing what they are doing and teaching young adults.

Final Thoughts

As any first-year convention they had their hiccups (unexpected semi-final match-ups both resulting in sweeps and ending over an hour early than scheduled), but as a long time convention goer, I was very impressed by this convention. I really enjoy the educational theme they presented and thought it was well done.  I am an avid fan of esports and will always love watching the pros battle it out in whatever game is presented, but highlighting the collegiate level talent was a really nice touch and fit really nicely.

One of my favorite moments of the convention was talking to an older lady and her saying “I have no idea what any of these things are or how to even play video games, but my son loves them and I am here to support him.” That is just something you don’t always get at the pro level and also showed that getting parents involved and educating them is important for the growth of the eSports whether it be by having the ‘Parent Workshops’ or something else it is something that needs to be addressed and worked on.

I look forward to OP Live 2019 and would definitively recommend this convention to anyone that is interested in becoming a professional gamer and/or working in the gaming industry for sure.