Esports in Alberta continue to grow

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Sports

Esports, short for electronic sports, have been around for over 20 years. During the pandemic, though, esports hit a new level of popularity. With people suddenly spending a lot more time at home, this led to a lot more time for video games. Thus, the Alberta Esports Association (AESA) was formed in 2020 to focus on “building Alberta’s esports industry with a community-driven approach to foster the growth of local communities, create opportunities for player excellence, and foster career pathways for long-term industry success,” their website explained. In addition to weekly game meetups, they are hosting the Alberta Esports Expo on February 18th and 19th. Gamers can come together to compete and learn. The Expo will have plenty of competitions and panels for newcomers to learn and improve their skills in certain games.

The Canadian Relaunch Heritage Grant partially funds the Expo. NAIT alumni and Community Engagement Manager for AESA Courtney Nickerson believes AESA is the first esports organization to receive this grant. “It’s starting to show a little bit of legitimacy within Esports on the government side, which is something that we have been trying to push toward, so I’m excited about this event. We did approach them, but we have had government organizations a little bit closer to home approach us.”

Photos via AESA

The AESA was founded in July 2020 by Brad Jones and Victoria Ly. These two heads in the esports community in Alberta, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary, came together as a governing body for Esports communities across Alberta. 

“Brad and Vic ended up coming together and going, ‘Look, we have 2030 communities that exist within Alberta that we know about that run these weeklies that are trying to get bigger. It’s kind of a free for all as to how they induce players. We don’t have any systems to help them grow.’ So, they wanted to start something like AESA to ensure everyone could unify under one umbrella. They could communicate and access resources more easily, so that [AESA] could potentially help them play safer and be more accessible to people coming into the space,” said Nickerson. 

Nickerson also explained how gamers can request their favourites. “One, let us know that you want to see a game because, for us, part of it is knowing that people want to play,” explained Nickerson.  “If we know that there is interest in a game, we’re going to find a way to run it.”

Nickerson also encourages gamers to start building their own communities centered around their favourite games. 

 “Suppose you have yourself and like four friends that love this one game. Start getting together. If anyone wants to join in and you start building that community, and suddenly we’re aware that this community is being built, we can help them. Especially for us, the two things are interest and the capability to run it. So, if we have a community that is able and interested in the game and can run it, then we’re way more likely to be able to bring in those games.”

For students studying here from other provinces, after the AESA was founded, esports organizations have popped up across the country. Courtney says, “Canada Esports Association is trying to work as the governing body for the entire country. We are one of the founding members. Then, there are a number of organizations in Manitoba. In BC, I want to say they’re almost more advanced than us, but in terms of the actual governing bodies, I still find that AESA is kind of like the lead in terms of Canadian governing bodies. But there are starting to be nonprofit Esports organizations popping up in and around Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, BC and Alberta. Then, of course, hopefully, we’ll see a little bit from the Maritimes and some of the territories soon.”The Alberta Esports Expo will be hosted at Edmonton Expo Centre on Feb. 18 and 19. Tickets are free and can be purchased on the AESA website. All the tournament details, including how to register and the schedule, can be found here.

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