If you have lived blissfully unaware of the existence of esports, a form of competitive sports in the virtual realm of videogames, you are sleeping on what's been projected to become a $1.4 billion industry by 2020. Professional gamers at the top of their field are becoming millionaires by the age of 30.
“The interest in gaming has risen to another stratosphere,” Armando Gutierrez says. “South Florida is home to a very big videogame community. Just look at the last tournament that took place at the Fillmore. It was absolutely crazy and packed with people wanting to watch some League of Legends.”
Gutierrez has the qualifications to assert his knowledge of the subject. As cofounder of Gamer Comic Expo, he has successfully tapped into the growing demand for esports among players and spectators. Gamer Comic Expo is set to return Friday, November 8, through Sunday, November 10, at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.
Last year’s inaugural event at the Miami Airport Convention Center attracted more than 10,000 attendees. With the move to Broward, Gutierrez hopes to attract even more gamers and people curious about esports. To draw more attendees, the expo has invited heavy-hitting League of Legends pros Bunny FuFuu and Professor Akali to play. SypherPK of Fortnite fame and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate star XCAdril also will appear.
However, what makes Gamer Comic Expo unique is anyone can square off against their gaming idols for the chance to win prizes. And, yes, major upsets where amateur gamers prevail over grizzled veterans have been known to happen.
“Last year, we had a couple of 18- or 19-year-old kids beating everyone,” Gutierrez says. “They were really, really good and may be back.”
Billed as the “largest gaming tournament in Florida,” Gamer Comic Expo is putting $10,000 up for grabs. Gutierrez says all you need to do to qualify is pay your entrance fee and bring your skills, because top-of-the-line computers will be provided throughout the venue.
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As the event's name suggests, there's also a comic expo component. Attendees can expect to see celebrity guests such as singer-songwriter Angela Lee Sloan, Stacy Heather Tolkin (Charlie Brown), and Keone Young (Men in Black 3 and Deadwood: The Movie). Cosplayers can participate in a daily fashion show offering a $500 grand prize. Notable cosplayers set to attend include Sam Estrada, Nicole Winters, Kosplay Kev, Lux Steez, and Lazaro Drake.
Considering the rapidly rising demand for esports, Gutierrez hasn't ruled out offering Gamer Comic Expo in other cities in the near future.
“We have thought about expanding into other states and other cities,” Gutierrez says. “We shall see.”
Gamer Comic Expo. Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, November 8; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, November 9; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 10, at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $25 to $399 via gamercomicexpo.com.