Booze, Gambling, and Fighting. It Must be EVO 2011

Booze, Gambling, and Fighting. It Must be EVO 2011

Well, here we are. Mana Tank is officially launching and to celebrate, Focus Fire and Gaming Generations have offered us the opportunity to join them at their EVO 2011 booth in Las Vegas. Being the geographically logical choice to attend, I made the trek across the deserts of Arizona, across the Hoover Damn, and into the city of Sin to partake in the festivities. The event hasn’t even officially kicked off yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be huge.

The crew from Focus Fire and Gaming Generations made the trek from the Midwest; six of them in a crossover towing an overloaded trailer filled with booth parts, monitors, and more video game systems than you could shake a stick at, while the rest chose the more comfortable airplane approach to traveling. Nevertheless, we all met up this afternoon in the lobby of the Rio, just off the Vegas Strip, where the tournament is being held.

Having only been to smaller gaming conventions in the past, I honestly had no idea what to expect as I walked through the loading bay doors of the convention center.

The iconic EVO stage set graced the thousands of empty chairs just below. The sheer size of the screens and stage décor is astounding and truly a marvel to watch games on. When we arrived, other exhibitors were just beginning to set up their own booths and the convention floor was an absolute mess. It just got worse once we unloaded our trailer.

60+ monitors lay spread across the convention floor as we slowly tried to piece together the mess that we brought with us. Watching the booths around us take form was quite fun to watch. It almost turned into a competition to see who could finish their booth first. Capcom slapped together dozens of monitors and system stands while Namco Bandai concocted several arcade racing style set ups. Now, to be expected, dozens of people did just exactly what they came to do and sat around all day playing video games.

Day 1 was entirely dedicated to prepping the booth and making sure everything functioned without tripping multiple circuits, but that didn’t stop people from slipping through the doors and mingling with the exhibitors.

Focus Fire and Gaming Generations were generous enough to donate 60 monitors for use in the tournament and in return have been allowed to act as the official warn up station for contestants by providing 16 monitors with various fighting games available. On top of the warm up stations and merchandise for sale, Gaming Generations is running various extra tournaments including Super Mario World speed runs and Mario Kart 64 tournaments.

Booth setup and contestant chat aside, I got a chance to get my hands on one of the most exclusive gaming cases known to exist. Calibur 11 unveiled the official Gears of War 3 MLG Vault case at E3 and through a very special connection, it ended up sitting on our booth wrapped nicely around a demo 360. The case, while still in its prototype stages, did not have any of the finishing lighting touches or interchangeable parts. If you aren’t familiar with Vault cases, they are the MLG answer to case mods. Rather than tear apart your case, void the warranty, and slap a new case on, Vault cases are custom, game-related case mods that wrap around and secure your system in a handy little shell that shows off your own personal style. The new Gears of War model is set to hit right around the launch of the game and run somewhere in the vicinity of $80.

It was rather easy to lose 12 hours in the convention center setting up the booth and mingling with the other exhibitors and very quickly learn that my knowledge of fighting games is far worse than I ever thought it was. These next four days are going to bring a slew of fist pumping victories coupled by an equal amount of crushing defeats. My skills have already been relegated to the loser’s circle after I haphazardly challenged Michael Akira (a.k.a Comboman) from Brazil and watched in amazement as I stood entirely unable to function on screen. I told him I’d challenge him to a game of Oblivion any day. I’ll dungeon crawl and pickpocket circles around him.

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