Esports are bigger than they’ve ever been. This weekend alone, one tournament will award nearly $11 million in prize money. Millions of spectators worldwide tune in to watch events streamed over the internet. ESPN is even tossing their hat into the ring.
The first-person-shooter duelling genre may be an afterthought in the modern esports era, but games like Quake pioneered esports and laid the groundwork for this recent explosion.
Quakecon, the annual celebration of Id Software’s legendary gaming franchises, paid homage to that history this weekend. The Quake franchise is steeped in esports history, filled with larger than-life-legends—players who dominated the game through their prodigious talents. Many of them met in battle yesterday, as the $20,000 Duel Masters Invitational Championship ran until just two men remained.
Fogarty has placed in the top four at Quakecon four different times, but has only ever made one final, and Yanushevsky used it to win his third Quakecon title. The Belarussian won the tournament in 2008, 2010, and 2012, apparently dominant in even numbered years–a bad sign for Fogarty in 2014.
The real story so far, however, is about the legends who are already out of the tournament.
In the quarterfinals, two superstars from different eras met for one of the few times in their careers.
Johan “Toxjq” Quick is one of the most dominant esports players in history, reigning over the duelling scene as the best Quake 4 player ever. The Swedish player uses his nearly perfect aim to crush foes, winning matches by simply out shooting them with his unbeatable lightning gun and rail gun.
Quick won over $120,000 in 2006 and 2007, putting together eight major tournament wins in a row in 2006. Over the course of Quake 4’s history he took 11 titles in 15 events, placing second in three of his losing efforts, including two Quakecon titles.
His opponent? Shane “Rapha” Hendrixson, a three-time Quakecon champion like Yanushevsky and the best player of the modern Quake Live era. The American took home Quakecon titles in 2009, 2011, and 2013, with over $100,000 in winnings to his name. Hendrixson’s style is a stark contrast to Quick’s. His aim is only average for a world class player, but his positioning and ability to read the game allow him to control the game in a nearly unprecedented way.
Quake Live perhaps favors Hendrixson’s style, as Quick simply hasn’t been as dominant since the fall of Quake 4. But yesterday, the Swede was the better player. His lightning gun was nearly unstoppable as he eliminated Hendrixson by taking three maps to one, in what was one of the most surprising results of the tournament so far.
Quick said the key to his win was to “gamble” more, forcing fights instead of defaulting to a more passive mindset.
Quick’s run would end in the semifinals against Fogarty, sweet revenge for the American player. In the last major tournament Quick won, the World Series of Video Games Toronto event in 2007, he beat Fogarty in the finals.
The other side of the quarterfinals also featured some legends.
John “ZeRo4” Hill is in some ways the old man of Quake, one of the few original pros still playing. In 2000, Hill won Babbage’s Cyberathlete Professional League, a legendary Quake III Arena tournament that still serves as a bit of landmark for the start of esports. Hill has three Quakecon duelling championships, including in 2001, where he beat Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel in the final.
But Hill ran into one of the game’s rising stars, Sergey “Evil” Orekhov, a Russian player who burst onto the scene in 2011 and quickly became a top contender thanks to his impressive gun skill. Orekhov placed second at Quakecon last year and third at Dreamhack Winter. The second seed this tournament, he showed why he was a favorite by eliminating Hill by a 3-1 score.
Yanushevsky, though, had the answer to Orekhov’s style.
Cypher told me yesterday he knows exactly how to beat Evil, and will. “Evil not so smart. Make him charge and then punish.” #QuakeCon
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 17, 2014
He beat Orekhov 3-0 in the semifinal. The Russian will face off against Quick Saturday afternoon in the third place match. But the real drama will be in the final, where Yanushevsky will challenge Fogarty. A win would give him his record fourth Quakecon duelling championship, topping Hill and Hendrixson. Fogarty, on the other hand, will try to cap off an excellent career with the major championship that’s always eluded him, despite a resume filled with second place finishes.
It should be an exciting finish to a great Quake tournament. It’s too bad there are not more of them. This year will likely be the first since 1999—when the CPL FRAG 3 tournament debuted the esports phenomenon—where less than $50,000 in prize money is awarded to Quake duellers. And that’s a shame.