Amidst the track events, swimming races, boxing battles, and everything in between currently playing out in Birmingham, a quiet room illuminated by the beam of several PCs is playing host to a little slice of history.
Esports may not be a medal event yet, but it’s finally found its own place in the 90-year-old celebration of sporting achievements at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
In early August, three trailblazing Australian squadrons touched down in England: two Rocket League lineups and a five-player Dota 2 team. They had one mission (well, besides winning it all): prove esports has a home in the sporting annals of the Commonwealth Games and its contemporaries.
It’s daunting, but Australia’s teams are up to the task.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Ayla “Habulouss” Bergmann, who makes up one-third of the women’s Rocket League team, admitted to Dot Esports ahead of their first outting (courtesy of sponsors EPOS).
Not only does the Commonwealth Esports Championships, which is being hosted in Birmingham at the International Convention Centre, stand as an esports litmus test, it’s also the womens squad’s first-ever “LAN” in Rocket League.
That doesn’t mean Bergmann and teammates Morgan “QueenMorgie” Medlyn and Zoe “PinkJelly” are shying away from the challenge. Instead, the mixing pot of being frontrunners in gaming and finally hitting the LAN circuit has them charged up. “Yeah, we’re nervous, but we’re also very, very excited for it all. It’s all going to be awesome [and] cool there’s so many people paying attention.”
Medlyn, also speaking to Dot, added: “Win or lose, it’s an opportunity.”
“The exciting thing is compared to something like RLCS [the developer-run Rocket League Championship Series] where the audience is gamer based, the Commonwealth Games gives us a chance to ‘go mainstream’,” she continued.
“Esports as an industry is growing exponentially and that comes with more opportunities for us as players as well as org and agencies. This is an exciting step forward for esports and it’s a pilot event so we’re hoping it sticks. Considering how big gaming is, it would be stupid for it not to grow from here.”
The video gaming sector is most definitely on the rise in Australia too. Rocket League is one small slice of a $4 billion industry roaring to life this last half-decade.
Bergmann and Medlyn say they hope their Rocket League cohort—Australia has sent mens and womens teams to Birmingham—can begin proving to those gamers and those just interested in sports that they should tune in.
“Just do it,” is Bergmann’s message. “It’s fun, come watch it.”
Medlyn’s is similar, with a splash of Aussie pride: “At the end of the day, it’s another thing for Aussie sports fans to root for. We’re representing our country, the green and gold… everyone wants to root for something, and we promise you that games like Rocket League can be very exciting to watch.”
Australia’s Rocket League women already played groups and semifinals.
The squadron ran second in Group B behind Canada, who they lost to in a tight 3–2 meeting on Thursday. They then made it to the semifinals where they lost against England in three, 4–0, 4–0, 2–1.
The defeat dropped the green-and-golds into the third place decider, where they’ll play Canada for “bronze.” The game is inked in for 7.30pm AEST on Aug. 7.
Elsewhere at the Games, in the Men’s Rocket League bracket, Australia finished top of Group A with a perfect 9–0 record over Jamaica, Kenya, and South Africa. The Aussie rep squad—Josh “Kaka” Watters, Tai “Shorez” Kibble, and Finn Mawer—were then swept by England in the event’s playoff semifinals.
The men will play for third against South Africa on Aug. 6.
Australia’s Dota 2 women are in a similar situation. They will play a third-place decider against Singapore on Saturday after losing to England 0–2 in semifinals.