BarCraft in St. Louis

| Video Games Editor

People gather at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Irvine, CA for a BarCraft event.Carlton Beener |

People gather at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Irvine, CA for a BarCraft event.

There’s nothing like going to a bar with friends, kicking back with some wings, and watching the big game on Championship Sunday. The big game I’m talking about has no burly Americans or bone-crushing hits, but it does involve skinny Korean dudes and their ridiculously nimble fingers. It’s not football. It’s StarCraft. And it’s coming to a bar near you.

BarCraft is pretty easy to sum up: fans watch a professional video game competition in a bar. It defies social norms, but maybe that’s why it’s so popular. The movement began this spring at Chao Bistro in Seattle, where a patron asked the bar owner if he would be willing to show professional StarCraft matches on Wednesday nights. The Korean owner agreed, and he was overwhelmed when over a hundred people showed up to the very first BarCraft.

Since then, the event has spread like wildfire. Glancing at a map dotted with all of the BarCrafts that have already happened, you will see nearly a hundred events spread out across the entire world. All but maybe ten states have had at least one event, including Hawaii. More exotic BarCrafts have been held in Tel Aviv, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Iceland. Montreal, however, might take the cake. Their event, which was held in a club and charged $15 for cover, boasted nearly a thousand attendees. Some bars have gone so far as to create special drink menus with items named after units from the game.

St. Louis has its own BarCraft events, kindly organized by Chris “Gilligan” Zammit. The first three were held at the Lion’s Den, a small bar in St. Charles about half an hour away. I had the pleasure of being there for the first event and watching the opening night of the North American Star League (NASL) with other enthusiastic fans. However, after some poking and prodding from city dwellers, Zammit was gracious enough to schedule the next event in St. Louis. The upcoming BarCraft will watch the NASL Finals this Sunday, December 4 at Post Sports Bar and Grill at 7 p.m.

Zammit was originally waiting for a BarCraft to pop up in St. Louis, but when nothing appeared, he took matters into his own hands. Inspired by success stories from the Internet, he realized that, “e-sports isn’t just going to happen based on wishes and dreams, it’s going to take all of us getting involved and getting out there and making it happen.”

Interested in the event, I decided to ask Zammit about what it was like to talk to bar owners and make BarCraft in St. Louis a reality.

“I decided that my pitch to the owners needed to start with what was in it for them rather than what was in it for me,” he said. “So my first words to the owner were, ‘I’m interested in having a large group of 50 or more people in your bar a couple times a month but I have some special needs.’” From there, he was asked, “So… what…exactly…is it you’re going to be watching?”

When Zammit explained StarCraft, bar owners didn’t seem to hate the idea.

However, he was still worried about the attendance.

“I was terrified that me, my girlfriend and my friend Steve would be the only ones sitting there watching StarCraft in a bar the first night,” Zammit said.

It turned out there was nothing to fear, as the first event drew about sixty people. Attendance for the following events has held steady around 30 people, but with the upcoming BarCraft in the city, he hopes to “overrun the bar with nerd-ballers.”

Zammit has even higher hopes for the future of StarCraft and e-sports—and there’s no reason not to, considering the success of BarCrafts around the world and in his own city.

“There’s no reason why we should feel like nerds or uncool for being passionate about it,” he said. “Always be excited and proud of what you love.”