Last spring, a phenomenon was born on Capitol Hill uniting a powerful triumvirate — liquor, nerds and video games. Today, the lounge where BarCraft was born is shuttered and one dream of nerd-friendly nightlife is game over — or, at least, paused — in the neighborhood where it started.
“I’ve always been a fan of StarCraft,” says founder of the Seattle BarCraft scene, Glen “Oskar” Bowers.
Bowers recalls being at bars and watching basketball and other professional sports. He thought “why not StarCraft?” In May of 2011 he set out to create that change and put an end to the bar scene that he describes as “not nerd-friendly.”
Launched at 12th and Pike’s Chao, the idea of people gathering in bars to watch video game tournaments quickly took off and soon gained neighborhood, then national attention . Bowers said the feeling of accomplishment hit home when The Wall Street Journal penned this article on the surge in BarCraft across the nation. “I was super happy (the article) gave it legitimacy.”
The fun and games also included a fair share of serious passion. Bowers recalls one night at Chao when tempers flared as a BarCraft patron became peeved when the TVs switched from StarCraft to Call of Duty.
“I am not here for Call of Duty… I am not a frat boy,” the man told Bowers.
Bowers said the bi-weekly sessions at Chao soon drew the attention of an ominous force — even worse than Zerg. “They tried to take it away,” Bowers says off Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of Starcraft II. “They felt they owned it,” and offered to buy the concept and trademark it. Bowers said no. He tells CHS he rejected the offer because of his belief in the BarCraft cause and that nobody should own the idea.
Since the closure of Chao earlier this summer, the Seattle BarCraft scene has slowed but is not dead. An event was held on August 8th at the Spitfire in Belltown. This has not been announced as a permanent fixture, and is not affiliated with Bowers and his original incarnation but is one sign the effort lives on. Meanwhile, the nights continue in bars in other cities across the country.
Will BarCraft ultimately make a return to Capitol Hill? “It’s a tricky thing,” says Bowers. There are many variables that affect hosting BarCraft — fast download speeds, an HD system, existing TVs, and a place that isn’t too busy as to make hosting of the event profitable for the bar. “Chao had an amazing setup,” Bowers said. Not many meet the qualifications.
Bowers said he is currently retired from BarCraft organizing — “I am waiting for someone to take the mantle” — and now directs those active in the Starcraft scene to this Facebook page. The Facebook page is currently boasting over 200 members who often ask for advice and share funny videos about how they feel about winning (One particularly humorous member posted a video of “I’ve got a Golden Ticket” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory about the bliss of juking out a rival.)
The bi-weekly meetings on Capitol Hill may have ceased but a strong community of gamers on the Hill still exists. While the next generation of BarCraft sorts itself out, the EOS gamer conference is coming to Seattle in September and many Star/BarCrafters have turned their attention that way with the hope of winning a cash prize.