I will have to admit that the title is not as eye catching as other article titles. However, I believed this title best represented my background and what I wanted to deliver.
Unlike other reporters covering competitive Esports in the United States, I was recently introduced to all this a couple of months back. Coming into with my knowledge and experience all based in Korean Esports, this piece will cover my first time at the Blizzard Arena in Santa Ana.
Before I dive right into the reasons why I love the Blizzard Arena, I just want to clarify that this article in no shape or form is written to compare what Blizzard has been able to accomplish here in NA to that of Korea. My only means of writing this is to display the commitment and love Blizzard has put into creating a better environment for Esports as a whole and what it felt like and meant for me as a Korean reporter.
My only hopes are that my initial and frank impressions on the Blizzard Arena will be an impactful informational vessel for other Esports enthusiasts to be more inclined to personally visit the Blizzard Arena.
Reason 1: The Venue
When I first set my eyes on the outside of the Blizzard Arena, I thought to myself “This does not seem much of an ‘arena’ to me.”. Most of, if not all, Esports venues in Korea have a rather massive outer appeal. Events are held in buildings that say “Hey! This is the Stadium you want to be at.”. After entering, I fully understood the common but yet cliché saying of “Never judge a book by its cover”.
It didn’t take long for me to appreciate the arena itself. From the moment I walked in to the second I walked out, I was constantly amazed. Starting from the atmosphere all the way from the structure of the venue, the Blizzard Arena welcomed me with open arms.
This may make me sound strange, but one of the few things that really blew me away were the arena seats. Trust me when I say, these seats are worth every penny and second it will take for you to get into the arena. At first glance, the seats already looked extremely comfortable. When seated, expectations went hand in hand with reality.
I realize that my experiences sitting down on a comfortable chair is probably not the reason you clicked this article for, but I believe it is an essential aspect for a good arena. Most fans do not put in much consideration for seats but as you are seated and focused on the game, it adds up. At the end of the day, it is the difference between having an amazing time at the Blizzard Arena with a sore back or without one.
Moving onto the display and surround sound. Although I have only been to a few stages in the U.S. such as the NA LCS Stadium and the League of Legends Spring Split finals in Miami, I would easily rank Blizzard Arena’s display as my top 1. The stage displays the match, map peripherals on the side, and hero specifics. Even adding in breathing animations for the heroes on the mid to side displays, Blizzard has done a fantastic job. The screens capture the viewer and brings them into the experience. While watching the games, I felt as if I was in my own world.
Lastly, the surround sound. The seats and displays were phenomenal, but the surround sound was the bread and butter. With perfect placement and quality of the speakers, every footstep or bullet that was fired gave me chills to the bone. It may have been because it was my first time at the arena, but the surround sound quality when an ultimate ability is used still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
I could see why people went out of their way to come here to watch the games live.
Reason 2: Presentation of Teams
In Korea, the players come up on the stage and are immediately seated prior to any announcement. Whilst getting everything set up, the casters are then tasked with presenting each player on both teams before heading into the match. In the Blizzard Arena, the presentation was different.
The casters would hype the crowd and introduce the players as if it was a wrestling match. The players would then come out from a tunnel and greet the fans on their way up to the stage. This was new to me.
The entire atmosphere was different to what I had previously known. The players hi-5ing the fans created a closer bond with the professional players and the audience. Although I was busy taking photos, I felt engaged and welcomed as if I had met with a long lost friend.
After making it on stage, the player cams were sent through the big screen with the casters formally introducing each player. The players would sometimes give winks or personalized poses which adds on to the already friendly and ecstatic experience.
While in awe, I couldn’t help but think of the amount of thought put into the Blizzard team in order to enhance the viewer’s experience. As time went by, my appreciation for Blizzard and their arena only grew.
Reason 3: The Fans
I was uncertain what I could expect from the fans at the Blizzard Arena. My expectations were already high due to Korean fans being the most exciting and avid supporters I have ever seen. I was blown away.
I could have not asked for a better crowd. The arena was packed with amazing supporters screaming to the top of their lungs with love. The two things that really caught my eye were the memes and sheer diversity of the crowd.
As a meme lover myself, I was more than happy to see fans holding up memes about their favorite players. The creativity, support, and enthusiasm created an atmosphere I had no choice but to be pulled into.
Secondly, the diversity. The demographic was completely different from Korea. In Korea, you would see fans in the 20’s with a majority being female. At the Blizzard Arena, I saw fans from all ages and genders. When sitting down, I saw a kid, around 8-9 years old, shouting and cheering on his favorite team louder than the whole audience combined. I couldn’t help but put a smile on my face.
As the kid roared out in excitement as an intense teamfight broke out, I began to gain a newfound respect for the North American fans.
Reason 4: Blizzard’s Passion and Attention to Detail.
All of the reasons I have mentioned so far is all credited to Blizzard. Creating a hub for Esports fans to come watch games and enjoy is a difficult task. Nevertheless, Blizzard has been able to reach the bar and go above that.
From the guards at the entrance to the staff inside the arena, I could always feel a sense of warmth with every word they say. The small gestures such as “Have a great time” or “Thank you for coming. I hope you have a wonderful night.” goes a long way. Coming from a country where people do not interact or say anything unless necessary, I was heartwarmed by the little thank yous and goodbyes from here and there.
In additional to all this, I saw stationed Blizzard employees guarding pinpoints in the arena in order to allow/restrict people from entering private areas. When I arrived at 3pm, I had seen a female Blizzard employee stand watch in front of the press room until 10pm. The amount of dedication from the staff that Blizzard offers had me speechless.
The hallways leading from room to room were also filled with Blizzard art and professional players in their highest moments. These pictures allowed for a seemingly tedious walk to be filled with appreciation and awe.
I could go on and on about the passion and dedication Blizzard has put into the arena. I could not thank Blizzard enough for the opportunity.
Reason 5: Food, food, and free food
There are two things when it comes to food provided by Blizzard to the media I want to emphasize on. 1: It is unlimited (as long as you ask for more). 2: It is free and delicious.
Although I am not a huge fan of a majority of snacks, I have a weakness for sea salt chips. And guess what? Blizzard has sea salt chips. The variety and quality of the food provided is a good portion of the reason why I love the Blizzard Arena.
As media, I was also able to order food from a menu and have it delivered to me. I was offered a selection of spaghetti, chicken parmesan, meatballs, turkey steak, and a lot more. My only regret is that I could not try all the menu choices on my first trip.
To be frank, I was a slight bit ashamed of myself that I heavily considered coming back to the Blizzard Arena more for the food and not the games.
To be even more frank, the food was probably one of the favorite things about the Blizzard Arena. You cannot help but be happy with free unlimited sea salt chips.