organising a hearthstone tournament


Events / Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Towards the end of last semester, Blizzard’s Hearthstone frenzy began sweeping across the bullpen, and soon many new players (me included) were being introduced to the game.  Thus, one of our events this semester was a Hearthstone tournament, and to organise this, Julian and I enlisted the help of Will, who is a legend-ranked Hearthstone player with some experience in organising tournaments.  Will and Julian wanted to be commentators at the live finals, and we created a tournament bracket for the 15 players who signed up to play.

Most of what I learned from this event had to do with event planning, and how it is frustrating.  As it was one of our earlier events I hope to apply these lessons to the rest of the events for the summer and next year.  Let the list of my top 10 frustrations begin.

  1. Free food is a great way to get people to attend, but people will come for food and then leave.  Therefore, have food arrive late on purpose, after the start of the event.  Place food in an inconvenient location that makes it awkward for people to grab and leave.  People will still grab food and leave.  Do not believe number of signups.  Double that and then add some.  Feed thick crust pizza as it fills people up more.

    Maximum capacity we had all night, which was great, but notice the free pizza in hand.
    Maximum capacity we had all night, which was great, but notice the free pizza in hand.
  2. People will complain no matter what.  If there’s free food, they will complain there are no free drinks.  Hey, there was free food.  Nope, doesn’t matter.

    Live streaming to Twitch!  Let's get this show on the road.
    Live streaming to Twitch! Let’s get this show on the road.
  3. Test the tech ahead of time.  It will still break when you are actually using it live, but test it anyway.  Make sure you have enough devices for players so you don’t have to scramble and borrow someone’s laptop 15 minutes before the finals begin.

    Game in session with Alex Hu playing from California.  Important to test tech especially with remote players!
    Game in session with Alex Hu playing from California. Important to test tech especially with remote players!
  4. Prize shopping is really fun, but remember you have to wrap it and make it look pretty.  Get prizes for everyone who participated, not just the finalists.  Make the prizes look appealing.

    Shopping and wrapping these prizes took almost a whole day, but they turned out quite nicely.  Notice personalisation for participant prizes.
    Shopping and wrapping these prizes took almost a whole day, but they turned out quite nicely. Notice personalisation for participant prizes.
  5. In a long event like a tournament, constant reminders to participants about when scores are due are essential, or this can cause a block for all future matches.  When emails don’t work, place sticky notes all over their computer monitor.

    Our double elimination bracket took place in such a short timeframe that it was ever more important to get results on time so they didn't block the rest of the matches.
    Our double elimination bracket took place in such a short timeframe that it was ever more important to get results on time so they didn’t block the rest of the matches.
  6. Minimise breaks in the event.  Breaks give people license to leave the event, go do other stuff and never return, especially if it’s after the food.

    Semi-finalists Maoyang and Allyn.  They needed a break to eat, then everyone left during the break.
    Semi-finalists Maoyang and Allyn. They needed a break to eat, then everyone left during the break.
  7. Personalise the advertising material.  Post pictures of people in the finals to encourage their friends to show up and support them.  Tag these people in social media posts.  Bang people over the head with the date and time of the event.

    Poster for the finals.  This was everywhere, in the lifts, in the break room, on Facebook, anywhere someone could notice and comment on it.
    Poster for the finals. This was everywhere, in the lifts, in the break room, on Facebook, anywhere someone could notice and comment on it.
  8. Live commentary is as much hype as it is tech.  When commentating to a naive audience as we had, it would’ve been better to be more descriptive about Hearthstone and how it’s played, since not everyone knew and many people were lost and thus lost interest.  Know your audience and play to them, don’t get too technical even though you personally might know a lot.

    Julian and Will commentating.  Mostly, Julian was hype and Will was tech.
    Julian and Will commentating. Mostly, Julian was hype and Will was tech.
  9. Don’t count on people to stay to the end of your event.  You will do all the cleanup by yourself, then chase down people who left their belongings at the venue.

    The slowly waning crowd.  I think we were down to less than 10 when the winner was announced.
    The slowly waning crowd. I think we were down to less than 10 when the winner was announced.
  10. An event is only as good as the people who participate.  But usually, the right people show up because they are the ones who want to be there.

    Congratulations to Allyn (1st), Alex (2nd) and Mao (3rd)!
    Congratulations to Allyn (1st), Alex (2nd) and Mao (3rd)!

All in all, a decent first stab at events for this semester.  Finals tonight were fun, but not as much attendance as we had hoped since everyone left after the pizza got here.  Classic.  I don’t think there’s a way to reduce the frustrations of event planning, maybe you just have to get used to it.