I have been a “gamer” for basically my whole life. Starting with computer games as a child, I have spent my free income on either books or my gaming habit for the last eighteen years. In that time, I have built and ruined civilizations, looted ancient caves, slain dragons, tended my farm, and traversed the stars. That is my typical gaming experience, and I prefer to do it alone.
Fast-paced competitive gaming has never been my cup of tea, and as such the esports scene has been something appreciated and viewed from afar. When I do play multiplayer games they are typically board games, as I find it a great way to spend time with my family and friends. This year I ran out of shelf space after a massive board game spree largely due to one game: UnMatched.
The easiest way to describe UnMatched is that it is a fighting game like Smash Bros. in board game form (although that is an oversimplification, I urge you to give it a try). My roommates and I collected every set, and played several times a week for months. Before long I found myself a part of the UnMatched community online, contributing and discussing with fellow fans on Reddit and Discord. Through this, I found the competitive UnMatched scene and last month when the UnMatched Winter Rumble 2022 was announced, I was eager to participate.
The games are played online, via a game called “Tabletop Simulator” and you compete against another person from across the country/world via a voice chat, in a tournament format for the title of “Legend”.
That sounds like esports to me!
I was surprised about how nervous, and excited I became as the tournament grew nearer, and by the time round one rolled around I had played plenty of practice matches and had an established strategy in mind. The round went by in a blur as I felt entirely engaged the whole time, and felt a surprisingly high level of satisfaction when I was able to win. To add to the experience, I decided to live stream the round using Twitch to my family and friends, and at its peak 22 concurrent viewers gathered to watch me play… a board game! I was met with texts of congratulations, and friends asking me the following day if they could try the game, and when my next match would take place.
I have since won blowouts and close matches, and lost to a former world champion while having a blast along the way. If you enjoy competition, and don’t want to cause arguments with family and friends when you become too riled up during friendly matches, perhaps “esports” could be the solution for you. There are communities for nearly everything online that are full of enthusiastic people who want to gather and do the things they love. Competitive thrill is a feeling that is becoming more accessible than ever before, and if an online tournament is able to inspire that feeling in you, that sounds like e-sports to me.