There’s a strange sense of giddy calm that overtakes a car as you’re driving alone to a convention center you’ve never visited before to attend an event that normally you would only get a glimpse at through a stream. This is the sensation that permeated my precious Yaris as my YouTube playlist of nerdtastic musical favorites poured out of the speakers. I was on my way to NASL at the Ontario Convention Center.
For those unaware, NASL stands for the North American Star League, a league which “established to foster the prominence of esports and professional Starcraft 2 play in North America through highly visible, organized, and invigorating competition” (NASL.tv).
At first I was a little befuddled by the choice of venues, as many may have been. After all, while many are familiar with the Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego convention centers, Ontario seems to stay off the radar. However, upon arrival at the convention center, I was quite pleased. The space was ample for the crowd, and parking was labyrinth-free. If you did not attend NASL due to unfamiliarity or misconceptions regarding the venue, then you lost out.
After all, this isn’t about grandiose marble entrances or mile long hallways and lines. This is about fostering a community: the StarCraft II community. This isn’t about the size of the venue. This is about the emotional swell of the crowd as 9 void rays materialize before we can exhale.
Alas, if you did attend and indulged in a moment to take your breath and admire the scene before you, you would have been overwhelmed with a level of warm fuzzies typically reserved for kittens, unicorns, and guinea pigs. The atmosphere within Hall B was superb and found the ideal balance between surreal and simply sublime.
What do I mean? Walking in the doors on Saturday, I was alone, though I did not stay so for long. Everywhere I turned, from standing in line for an autograph with Squirtle to mingling in the seats, the friendly symbiosis of the crowd was heartwarming. On Saturday alone, I made 3 new friends and finally met someone I had been tweeting with over the GSL scene for months. Was any of this planned in advance? Of course not. Simply, the structure and flow of NASL allowed the attendees to comfortably engage with one another, further interconnecting the community.
While some may gawk at minor technical hiccups that are characteristic of these types of events, these quibbles are irrelevant in comparison at was actually accomplished. Gosu or noob, we came together not only to watch amazing StarCraft II matches, but also to come together as a very tightly knit community. This wasn’t watered down by consoles or other genres. This was pure concentrated SC2 love. Bring on NASL Season 2!