By Jacob Toman
To read Part 1 of this series (Planning), click here.
The coffee pot is on at 8PM.
Snacks are on the plate next to my desk.
My left leg is bouncing from excitement.
There is no mistaking it, I'm about to help run an online tournament.
In the first post in this mini series I briefly discussed the process of planning an event that Gospel & Gaming organizes and participates in.
In this post I plan on covering what a typical online event feels like from an organizer's perspective.
There is loads of prayer and preparation for when Gospel & Gaming sends a missionary into an online event. Most of the time our events take place late at night. As a ministry that is primarily engaged with recreational gaming, our work often takes place when others are off of work.
“As a ministry that is primarily engaged with recreational gaming, our work often takes place when others are off of work.”
I sincerely love hosting and producing online events. I feel as though it's when I'm at my peak as a leader and as a servant. For the last 2 years I've now been responsible for around 100 events, and the vast majority of my experience comes from running online League of Legends tournaments.
The hour before an event starts is the "final touches" hour. Any details that had been left undone are now attended to. I begin running through a mental checklist as the last 60 minutes tick down:
Are all my volunteers online?
Have I sent out reminders to team captains?
Are the team captains beginning to show up?
Do we have any special rules that players and admins need to be reminded of?
Are my streamers up and working?
Are all the stream overlays in the right email inboxes?
Have the supporters I've talked to this week prayed for this event tonight?
Is the player registration list and bracket webpage working?
Are there delays or changes to the in-game servers?
How many cups of coffee will I end up drinking tonight?
To say I'm in a flurry of thoughts prior to going live with an online event would be an understatement.
Each event is a little bit different from the last. The challenges that present themselves vary from technical issues to human resources. But while difficulties vary from event to event, there is one that has always been true: The first 15 minutes of a live tournament online are always the most hectic. This is true for a number of reasons:
1. Everyone is still participating; no team or players have been eliminated.
2. New players are unsure about rules and need guidance for their first match.
3. Confusion about timezones and communication mishaps often hallmark the first 15 minutes.
Within the first fifteen minutes my computer screens look something like a mix mash of emails, text messages, web pages, rules, and registration forms.
Throughout the course of a tournament there are lots of people to check up on and encourage. There are the people helping run the live stream as well as referees and admins helping make sure each match is appropriately played.
This means that there is a total of about 30 individuals via text, messages, and voice chat to interact with. These Interactions are usually rather quick, with the vast majority of interactions being simple questions with quick answers to problems or questions.
The speed in response time to a question can open the door to future interactions. The longer it takes to get back to someone, the greater chance they will be frustrated with their wait time. I see this as an opportunity to run a smooth event and create repeat interactions; through repeated interactions relationships are formed and develop. This is often the first step towards sharing Christ with someone in this tournament setting. Because interactions are so quick, there isn't time to develop deep relations with volunteers or players during a tournament; rather, these tournaments act as introductions to potential relationships with spiritual conversations occurring down the road.
It may seem silly at first to think that response time to answering a question could be the difference between healthy long term relationships, and short lived frustrating relationships. However, over the last two years I've learned that treating someone professionally during an event, with kindness, patience, and effectiveness is key to representing Christ through an online mediated event.
Over the last month we've had the privilege of serving 156 different players during 4 tournaments.
Since tournaments are competitive events, players are eliminated from competition as some teams win and advance, while others lose and become spectators. As an evening of tournament play goes on I become more familiar with the players competing and volunteers helping produce the tournament.
The best relationships are the ones I share with the volunteers who are "in the trenches" with me during the event. They feel pressure and experience the reward of a successful event. These volunteers are the regular people I am in constant contact with. We have about an hour’s worth of work prior to a live event, between 3-6 hours (the length of the event depends on the format, amount of games played, and teams participating) of work during the event, and then about an hour of cool down and discussion after the event. I believe the axiom a "relationship is only as strong as the worst thing it's been through". I've witnessed first hand how these volunteers respond to pressure and difficult situations, and they've seen how I respond in tight spots.This is one of the greatest living witnesses I can have as a Christian administering a tournament.
“A relationship is only as strong as the worst thing it’s been through”
The top 8 teams usually produce between 10-16 players who will open themselves up for further conversation and friendship. It's fun to get to know the players who advance in a tournament. Since our events are live streamed, I monitor the chat and casters as the event is live and ongoing. This actually let's me compliment players on their performance and be available for both critique are advice.
A winner has been proclaimed,
All the paperwork has been filed,
New friends have been made,
The coffee has worn off;
This is the time of night when a much different sort of work begins.
After events are often times when volunteers and players choose to share about their lives. This may be something painful, something hilarious, something they want advice on, or something they may simply want someone else to hear.
The tournament is officially over, but God's work of weaving my life with the life of this gamer, is only just beginning.
I guess I better put on another pot of coffee.