Short First person recount: Skipped the first two days as the sign ups were kinda lackluster, the open brackets (D1) and group stages (D2) are better off being watched on an internet stream anyway because of the way the place was setup. In short, if the game isn’t being featured on the main stage, the crowd had to make do with a small monitor at the backstage area without any commentary – the viewing experience in the comforts of one’s home is much better.
Anyway, one of the biggest irony is that I’ve managed to only watch about 4 matches live – 1 match of RO12, Semifinals #2, a FFA and the Finals. One of the reasons is that the matches start “early”, with early being 11am. Although I’m quite “free” so to speak, the optimal time for me to head down is probably after lunch, the later the better as well to avoid the squeeze. By then most of the matches for the day have already been played so..yeah.
For Day 3, I only caught a short PvP match in the RO12 between Grubby and MC. as aforementioned, this particular game was played in the backstage/gaming area where everyone was crowding around a single monitor with no audible commentary because the LoL grand finals are being played on the main stage at the same time. Spent most of the time walking around taking pictures after the matches concluded. The IEM area wasn’t that huge to begin with so there isn’t really anything note-worthy to mention about the area.
Final day. Arrived at the venue at around 3.30pm and managed to catch the game 4 and 5 of the semifinals #2 (when I left, game 1 had just ended). Got myself a seat after some people left while awaiting the finals. Surprised that a FFA was being played in-between the wait, but it was definitely worth the watch (beats infinite ads/crowd shots anyway). After the finals the same thing happened as per day 3, just that the photos have already been taken and there wasn’t anything else to take (at this point the production crew were starting to pack up), so I left after loitering around a little.
Pre-tourney thoughts – To sum my feelings up, I’m both glad and a little disappointed at the same time. Glad because this is a recognized, well-established international tournament, the last one (that I can recall) probably being WCG 2005 Grand Finals. In addition, this particular IEM was announced as a replacement to IEM Guangzhou which was cancelled due to a recent Japan/China conflict, so I would say this came as a surprise to me when I heard about it. The biggest plus point was that the organizers decided to hold it in conjunction with SITEX 2012, a consumer electronics fair/ IT show. People might not think much about this but in reality, this move benefits the E-sports scene greatly by exposing the tournament to the masses. While I do not know how much of the audience are actually fans or normal people here to shop, I have to say this is a brilliant move to promote the growth of E-sports.
The only real disappointment for me was the lack of notable sign ups (for SC2 at least), apart from a handful of names. Before the tournament even began, things were looking inauspicious when there was not a single Terran to be seen in the group play (Layman explanation here, basically there are 3 races in SC2 and with 1 race not present at all, speaks a lot). There was also many cancellations from different players, 7 in total, which really hurt the tournament, especially when they already have to deal with having 0 Terrans and the absence of star power. To seal the deal as possibly one of the least competitive international tournaments out there, only 19 out of the 32 open bracket sign ups were filled – essentially meaning that not a lot of people were interested in participating despite the relatively low difficulty of competition. Personally I’m a little sad because one of the casters, Tasteless cancelled as well to nurse an injury.
Post-tourney thoughts – Being there in person and watching from a stream just feels so different. It’s not just about seeing the personalities in flesh and blood, but also soaking in the atmosphere – just being there in itself made all the difference. The crowd went wild whenever Grubby (huge WC3 personality) made a good play, the 8 player free-for-all was awesome. People cheered even though the fan favourite Grubby lost in a nail-biting series 2-3 to the champion Sting. These experiences don’t translate well into words, one has to be there to truly know where I’m coming from.
I loved how friendly the personalities are in person. Grubby, on both days after his matches, interacted with the crowd, took photos and signed autographs despite having no real obligation to do so. In hindsight, he is the fan favourite and well-loved for a reason after all – having such a personality certainly reflects that. Artosis (famous SC2 caster) also did the same, the both of them even shook hands and chatted with the fans – a sign of humbleness. Other lesser known casters and players alike were also similar in those aspects – It was an amazing sight to behold, compared to a typical artiste appearance, where interaction was strictly limited.
Lastly, I want to talk a little about the games itself. Even though the level of competition wasn’t anything to brag about, there are still a couple of points that made this tournament memorable in terms of how the games played out: (link here for reference)
- Sting won with a score of 3-2 from the group stages onwards – Group stage, RO12, QF, SF, F were all won with a 3-2 score.
- Sting is also a Terran who qualified from the Open Bracket, being one of only 4 Terrans that signed up.
- It is also Sting’s first time out of Korea, and he says this place is too hot (lol).
- Grubby the runner-up, advanced to the finals with a score of 3-2 from the QF onwards.
- Grubby was down 0-2 in both the SF and finals before tying it up 2-2, unfortunately he fell just one game short to the eventual champion Sting.
I know I expressed disappointment at how this particular IEM wasn’t as stacked as it could potentially have been, which dampens the viewing experience greatly. But having said that, this also allowed for gamers who are less well-known a chance to showcase themselves, and I cannot stress the importance that such exposure benefits in advancing their careers. It does suck somewhat for us viewers, but it helps players such as Sting, who has never stepped out of Korea until now, to make a name for himself.
All in all, I’m glad that IEM chose to host its competition here, as it is rare to have an international tournament of this scale being hosted in the SEA region. I’m elated to have attended the tournament, having the opportunity to meet public figures in person after watching them behind a screen after all this time. Some of the games were really exciting to watch, even more so while being part of a live crowd! All I can really ask for now is for the next event to come sooner than later.