Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (HU) promised a different approach to Esports competitions when it announced the first annual HUE Festival.
The festival was set up as more of a grassroots competition as invites were extended to esports teams across the country from schools of all sizes, resembling the comprehensive approach of SXSW than a traditional esports competition."
Unlike Esports competition arranged and funded by Riot and/or Blizzard, HU and NACE created a grassroots major competition. This invitation-only festival among NACE member schools better resembled the comprehensive approach of SXSW than a traditional Esports competition.
By combining music with Esports, and with the fervent support of Harrisburg city officials, the HUE festival became a city-wide celebration. Harrisburg’s urban center became a vast pedestrian mall featuring nineteen food trucks, tents, myriad vendors, and even one city block dedicated to craft beers and renamed for the evening, “Beer Street.”
The festival was also the official opening and introduction of the cooperative relationship between Harrisburg University and the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. In addition to HU’s Esports teams having a new, dedicated training center in the Whitaker, the Whitaker’s 250-seat Select Medical Digital Cinema and 700-seat Sunoco Performance Theater both hosted and streamed competitions.
Twenty college and university members came together for two days to compete for the $50,000 prize pool in Overwatch and LOL. These twenty schools generated thirty-two teams. With both games, it came down to host school Harrisburg University facing off against recognized collegiate powerhouses, Maryville University in Overwatch, and Columbia College in LOL. Despite valiant efforts, Harrisburg lost in both rounds: Maryville edged out Harrisburg University 2-1 in Overwatch, while Columbia College went 2-0 against Harrisburg University in League of Legends. The home team put up such a gallant showing in its very first year of operation it proved a pyrrhic victory for HU’s students and supporters.
Following the Esports competition, attendees spilled onto Harrisburg’s streets to enjoy the festival occurring in Harrisburg’s city center. The bands playing were a modern lineup of energetic music, representing a multitude of genres. Among them, were Soulicity, Skela, The Great Enough, Lit, Alien Ant Farm, and Atlas Genius.