On August 2, the Jamaica eSports Initiative took a major step to bring Jamaica into the burgeoning competitive video game arena by attending the largest fighting game competition in the world, The Evolution Championship Series (ECS). At the end of the three-day event in Las Vegas, Nevada, the virgin Jamaican eSports team, a five-player collective named the Dr Birdz, posted results that put them in the top 10 per cent internationally.
The experiment worked. Those were the words of JEI chairman and CEO, Gregory Moore. He explained that the Dr Birdz, Jamaica’s official eSports team, was created to represent the country.
“There has never been any effort in Jamaica to put a team together to represent the country. Since we’re tasked with putting a national team together anyway, I thought let us just enter something where we know that Jamaica is proficient in,” Moore said.
The team making the trip to Las Vegas included Moore; Andrew Johnson, who pulled double duty as a player and part of the JEI executive; Christopher Chen; Jason Whyte; Nicholas Chin Loy; Vernon Bourne; and Mali Williams, a Jamaican from Atlanta.
ECS or Evo as its better known in the gaming community focuses on the fighting game genre and uses nine titles – Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11, Soul Calibur VI, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st], Dragonball FighterZ, BlazeBlue Cross Tag Battle and Samurai Shodown.
“Anyone can pretty much enter Evolution, but we decided that we were going to do it as a team to get the word out there, to stir up the community, to showcase to sponsors what our potential is, as well as for the players to gain experience in international tournaments. Playing online is different than playing beside somebody, especially a professional,” Moore said.
The road to Evo began in January when the first of the two qualifiers to choose the team members began. The second took place in April, solidifying the top players in the island. Two months later, the team was formalised with the name Dr Birdz.
And although things didn’t start out well during the trip to Las Vegas, Moore was happy with the results and the team’s performance under international scrutiny. More importantly, for Johnson, the only certified tournament planner in Jamaica, he hopes to bring back the spectacle that was Evo 2019 to the country.
— Written by Nichola Beckford