PolyLAN: the art of online esports

 Alain Herzog/EPFL

Alain Herzog/EPFL

27.03.16 - PolyLAN has set a new attendance record. From Friday to Monday, 1,150 gamers are competing in a series of tournaments at EPFL’s Swiss Tech Convention Center.

For four days, the Swiss Tech Convention Center has morphed into a hotbed of video gaming as it hosts the biggest electronic sports event in French-speaking Switzerland. 1,150 gamers have signed up for the online tournaments running from Friday to Monday. The event, like the association that organized it, is called PolyLAN 27.

Despite the crowd, the room is quiet. And for good reason: teams are facing off online via LAN (local area network). They are playing some of today’s most popular video games, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike and Hearthstone. Teammates are allowed to communicate with each other, of course, but only with headsets. The occasional hurrah! hints at what’s happening online. The air in the room may indeed heat up from time to time, but that’s mainly the result of the many computers filling the room. The participants have stashes of (not overly healthy) food beside their computers and under the tables to keep them going throughout the event. They can also get some rest in a sleeping room set aside one floor up.

Hugo Dupraz, the president of PolyLAN, is enthusiastic: "I see this as a gaming festival. And this year, we beat our attendance record. It’s great that so many people turned out and that everyone is having a good time. We have five esport tournaments in which between 32 and 360 players are competing. But we also have other competitions like classic and retro games along with board games." There have been some challenges for the 70 or so staff members, such as making sure the servers are able to accommodate so many people.

Kevin Rodrigues (20 years old), who came from Geneva with his team Juck Folos, is getting ready to dive into a round of LOL (League of Legends). What’s the draw for this young biology student? "This is my third time, and it’s the fun atmosphere that keeps me coming back." The winners of the esport tournaments will share 12,000 francs in prize money. And a series of prizes worth a total of 15,000 francs will be awarded for the other competitions.