games / Columns

A Clash of Streamers: Champions of Fire 2017

December 20, 2017 | Posted by Adam Larck
Champions of Fire

It’s surprising to say that a tournament title and $10,000 came down to a game of Flappy Birds Family.

However, Amazon’s Champions of Fire tournament isn’t exactly a normal tournament. The tournament wasn’t centered around just one game, like most eSports tourneys are. Instead, there were 10 mobile games being played throughout the two days. The games were Beach Buggy Racing, Beat Fever, Cooking Craze, Disney Crossy Road, Minion Rush, Flappy Birds Family, Pac-Man 256, Real Racing 3, Dancing Line and Sonic Forces: Speed Battle.

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In fact, except for Sonic Forces: Speed Battle and Beat Fever, games weren’t played against each other. Instead, they just played for high score or fastest time to take top spots on the leaderboards until the playoffs.

Additionally, competitors weren’t masters of each game. Instead, 12 Twitch and YouTube stars took the stage to try and help draw interest for the games and Amazon with their respective fanbase. Pokimane, Yassuo, GassyMexican, Sky Williams (later replaced by Galadon after an issue happened backstage after the first game), Swiftor, Mystic7, Avajaijai, Naomi Kyle, Nampai Kid, Hafu, xChocobars and Northernlion (complete with the largest fanbase at the arena at Time Inc.) all traveled to New York City to compete for two days.

For the competitors, this was a way to try out some new games, maybe pick up a few new subscribers watching the Twitch stream and try to win some money. Plus, they could meet fellow streamers and build new friendships.

“We’re influencers,” Kyle said. “We want to get in front of an audience, but we also want to meet each other.”

For Amazon, it was a chance to show that even casual games can be competitive and draw a crowd to watch. Plus, it’s a way for the online retail giant to see which games get a bigger draw, possibly for their own entry into the market in the future.


The mind of a streamer

For all the streamers at the event, the titles were a pretty new experience.

Many streamed specific games, such as League of Legends and PUBG, while some, like GassyMexican (who participated in last year’s Champions of Fire), are more of an all-around streamer.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t completely unfamiliar with the shorter titles. Swiftor noted that he used to have time to play mobile titles, such as Vainglory, when riding the subway, but doesn’t play them nearly as much anymore due to spending most of his time inside streaming.

While streaming may seem simple, after all, you can just turn Twitch on and stream gameplay, recording and editing long gameplay sessions after several years can take its toll.

“I realized I stopped playing games in my off time just for fun,” GassyMexican said, noting that having an off day in a game can quickly get in your head and frustrate you more than it should.


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Another area that can have drag for streamers is the longevity of a game. Some games, like Minecraft, have been exceptions to this rule thanks to the fan base, but most games need regular updates and content to help keep interest up Mystic7 said.

Swiftor added that finding a balance between what you want to play and what fans want to see can help extend interest in games that streamers may play over a period of months, if not years.

For those interesting in streaming, many offered tips about how to get into the field and not burn out quickly.

GassyMexican said to branch out from whatever the current niche game is and find out what else you like.

“Eventually, the game has a shelf life,” he said, adding that gamers should really like what they’re doing and keep an open mindset that streaming may not be for them.

NampaiKid said that, if streaming with others, it’s best to work with people that have the same vision as you to have a video that’s not disjointed.

Sky Williams noted that, unless you’re great at a game, people will come to see and hear you more than the gameplay.

“It’s entertainment, so you are putting on a bit of an act all the time,” Avajaijai said.

Finally, a few noted that they should beware the extreme fans that exist out there; the ones that will DOX or SWAT streamers just for a laugh. A few in the room had been a victim of both, and worse.

One streamer said a few followers took it a step farther, finding personal information about his family and posting it in chat, threatening them.

Another, Pokimane, said a guy showed up recently at her residence who had been stalking her. He saw her roommates walking the dog and tried to find out where she was from them.

“Sometimes, you start to question whether it’s worth it,” she said. “You hope that you can remain comfortable doing what you do.”

It’s these outlying fans that keep some streamers from doing meetings outside of public events like PAX. While NampaiKid had one planned during the New York trip, others like Avajaijai won’t do random meet and greets during trips because of some that can’t understand social cues.


Champions of Fire recap

The first full day of the tournament, along with the first hour or so Sunday, was a round-robin format. Two players would come up and play one of the 10 games to record their best times or scores.

The odd thing about the format was that you never knew what game would be next. They didn’t do all competitors completing Beat Fever before moving on. One round may be Cooking Craze, the next Real Racing 3, and who knows after that. My guess would be to keep interest in all games during both days, but I would’ve loved to have seen just one game at a time to be able to easier see who had the top ranking in each title.

The order of games also got shuffled around slightly Saturday due to some network issues with Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, the newest title that had just hit the Android app store a few weeks before the tourney. Thankfully, the issues were solved (mostly) by Sunday, letting the game continue as planned. (Come back next week for a feature on Sonic Forces: Speed Battle and how the game has evolved since launch.)

During the round-robin, one of the best games to see being played was Dancing Line. It’s simplistic in nature (just tap the screen to move the line with the music), but to see a good player up on stage playing it was captivating. Hafu had some amazing rounds in the game, scoring three perfects in all three stages early on.

She also had great scores in Beat Fever, being one of the few that could complete at least one song. However, she was able to take down all five. All songs played for the tourney were on hard mode by DJ R3HAB, which even he couldn’t complete when it came time to face off against Hafu in the charity match.

“I feel like it depends on how well your reaction times are on a lot of the games,” Pokimane said on many of the titles played during the weekend.

By the time the six-person tournament bracket on Sunday wound down, Hafu found herself facing off against Yassuo, who said he would win early on Saturday. After going down 4 games to 2 in the best of 11 set, Yassuo swept the remaining games, including a personal best on Disney Crossy Road and a great finish on Flappy Birds Family, which he said was one of his favorite titles in the tournament, to win it all.

Overall, the event had some pretty tense moments, even for easy to pick up and play games such as this. While some titles, like Disney Crossy Road and Pac-Man 256, made a return for the tourney, I hope next year features all new titles to keep drawing interest to lesser known mobile games that deserve a shot in the spotlight.