(Photo by Marco Cerino)
Over 200 esports competitors and spectators filled the N3rd Street Gamers venue in Northern Liberties last weekend to take part in Fragadelphia XII. Across three days and nights, they played, mingled and celebrated the gaming community in the largest LAN “open” event in North America.
Fragadelphia is a small outfit run by gaming enthusiasts spread across the country who all have ties to Philadelphia. Led by former esports pro Stephen “Sasquatch” Csikos, the cohort has expanded a one-day event — which drew as many as 16,000 viewers to a single match way back in 2015 — into a weekend-long spectacle where pros and amateurs can battle together in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a popular title in one of the longest-running and most popular esports team games. Think of this as a video game equivalent of a golf pro-am or the World Series of Poker.
Like the WSOP, action went on into the wee hours. Early Monday morning, Swole Patrol swept Ownage 3–0 to take the CS:GO title and over $18,000 in prize money.
By winning the top bracket of the double-elimination event, Swole Patrol earned a one-map advantage in the best-of-five final. The event began with single-map matches and expanded to best-of-three for the brackets.
“We really push to bring the community together and allow teams that wouldn’t necessarily get that big-stage performance to come out and play against the pros, play against other local teams,” said Brian Frank, who handles branding and sponsorship for Fragadelphia. “One of the things we appreciate about the community is the positive feedback we get and the things we’re able to offer them.”
The event drew gamers from across the country and even some international squads from Canada and Brazil.
Unlike professional invitationals like the ones you see on TV or streaming sites, this was an open event. Some teams qualified through online tournaments and received financial assistance to attend. Others were assembled randomly among those who registered independently. Fragadelphia committed over 80 percent of its entrance fees into the prize pool, which grew to over $33,000.
As the event has evolved over the last decade, it has attracted more players and partners. That grill you smelled and line you saw down North 3rd Street wasn’t overflow from the 2nd Street Festival. That was thanks to Bubba Burger, which supplied beef patties to feed the crowds. In a sign of esports’ mass-market aspirations, this was the event’s first sponsor from outside the gaming or tech community. Other sponsors provided high-end desktop towers and monitors to give players the same level of quality the pros enjoy at major events.
“One of the greatest things we have is the networking ability and visibility at this event,” Frank said. “Since we’re at Fragadelphia XII, we’ve gained more popularity throughout the years. We’re gaining more sponsors that are actually coming to us.”
Sunday was the only day open to visitors. Spectators gathered around the main stage at NSG to watch teams play for the coveted money spots in the event (the top six teams won prize money). Some talked strategy with teammates, others met those who they knew from online, while some streamed the experience for their online followers.
The unique experience is what keeps bringing people back to Fragadelphia, participants told Technical.ly. Watching professional events means sitting in an arena or amphitheater, viewing teams from afar. Here the teams are on the same floor as the spectators, with the casters off to the side. At one point during an elimination match, the casters mentioned how quiet the fans were. If noise was made, it often came from the larger room, where teams battled in a battalion tournament. This close-knit feel keeps bringing back players like Eric Flom from Team Mythic, a former pro who now lives in Las Vegas.
“It’s rough around the edges but it’s super fun,” Flom said of his fifth appearance at this event. “It’s not a perfect LAN environment but that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s super laid back, it’s a much more casual event to just get kind of used to playing.” His team finished just outside the money this year but he’s won twice previously.
Fragadelphia has become a mainstay event in the Philadelphia esports calendar.
Those who came from Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic region were in the minority but well-represented over the weekend. Dignitas’ women’s team finished just outside the Top 16. “Mitch” from the men’s side was a key member of Ownage and helped his team claim over $8,000 as runners-up.
NSG, which is attracting investment in its bid to organize the minor leagues of the U.S. esports industry, earned high marks for hosting the event. NSG’s Rob Hilsky was on hand late Sunday evening.
“It’s really exciting to facilitate the largest open Counter-Strike LAN event in North America and to be able to provide the set-ups and the stream for the Fragadelphia organization,” he said before the final. “There’s a lot of influencers and tournament organizers out there who just don’t have the funding or the venue, the facilities, to run an event like this. It’s in our business plan and seeing it in action is awesome.”-30-
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