Canadian eSports was born here in midtown

Cineplex and World Gaming both call Toronto's centrepoint home

Lurking in the rec rooms and living quarters of midtown homes is the future of professional sports.

Could parents really believe that their kids, who play far too many video games, could win millions of dollars in one the fastest growing pro sports circuits in the world?


You may guffaw, but eSports events like DOTA 2 and League of Legends have more viewers than the Stanley Cup playoffs — almost five times the amount.

So, if you’re out of touch and shrug off video games as child’s play, try again. The video game industry makes more than the porn industry, and that’s saying lot.

Now, how midtown has become the hub of Canadian eSports is simple. World Gaming CEO Rob Segal lives right at Avenue and St. Clair, and his partner in crime, Cineplex Entertainment, who purchased his company in September are located right at Yonge and St. Clair.

With the Cineplex World Gaming Regional Championships of Call of Duty III as the backdrop, I chatted with Segal and his affinity for the digital world so many escape to when away from work, school or (in my case) parenting.

He’s been gaming for 40 years. His first machine? Pong. His beloved game? Galaga.

I have to admit, he’s got a couple of years on me, as I started with Leisure Vision in the early ’80s when I lived in B.C. My dad introduced me to gaming, and as I’ve evolved, so have the systems.

I’ve owned a Sega Master System, Genesis and every Playstation, in all its iterations.

So when I heard Cineplex was throwing its hat in the eSports ring, I had to get a good look at it. I may not be a Call of Duty person — playing mainly sports and fighting games — but it looks like an awesome time.

Segal, beaming, said he agreed.

“I would love to see this expand across Canada, add more games, so we have a great slate of games,” he said. “I want to see some of the gamers become stars.

“I want to see them come from our ranks and make it to the championships for these titles.”

The Cineplex World Gaming Canadian Championships had its first run through Feb. 21, and kids from all over the GTA competed to be the final 24 for the national championships, March 6.

Though the entertainment giant has only earmarked 24 theatres across the country for gaming, there are hopes to expand it to a much larger network.

I asked Cineplex spokesperson, Sarah Van Lange, if Yonge and Eglinton could plan to host to such an event, and she did not dismiss it.

“Eventually I see having this set up in as many theatres as we possibly can, and in as many communities as we can,” she said.

That’s good news, because I’d love to take my NHL 16 gameplay to the next level, and with $50,000 worth of prizes to be had, why not?

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Posted: Feb 23 2016 4:03 pm
Filed in: Column  VIEWS