2020 was a year like no other. In-person events became risky affairs and Zoom stepped in as the new way to connect with coworkers and family alike. But as with all dark clouds, there were silver linings, and one of them came from Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 213 members.
Local 213's NextGen group hosted the first-ever cyber games tournament in June, and they’re planning another for 2021.
"They found a great way to bring IBEW Canada brothers and sisters together for some much-needed fun and solidarity," said First District International Vice President Tom Reid. "I'm very impressed with what they accomplished."
Local 213's NextGen group, the union's initiative to encourage participation and leadership among its younger members, hosted the first-ever cyber games tournament in June. The multi-team, online video game tournament started as an effort to connect members within the local's NextGen chapter but quickly grew into a Canada-wide event with over 50 members representing 11 locals, from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia.
"With all the physical distancing and isolation, we were looking for a way to stay connected and engaged," said Manny Randhawa, Local 213's NextGen committee chair. "So, we proposed a cyber games tournament and the idea caught fire."
It was so popular, in fact, that they had to create a wait list. Part of that could've been the prizes offered — Milwaukee power tools and Bose speakers went to the winners — but it also gave participants a chance to do something different while safely at home.
"I think what made it so successful was that we capitalized on the dread of being stuck at home and turned it into a win," Randhawa said. "Everything else had shut down and we were able to offer the chance to play a game people love, and with their IBEW family."
The idea started in early March as a conversation among some NextGen members. That was the same time that major events like South by Southwest were being canceled, so signs were already pointing to a major lockdown. When they posted the idea on a Facebook group, the response was clear — and huge.
"It was the most engaged comment we've ever had," Randhawa said. "We typically get a few likes or a few comments per post. This one had almost 190 comments in two days."
As with nearly everything on Facebook, some comments were skeptical, but there was also a lot of praise for doing something new that spoke to the moment.
"They really ran with it," said International Representative Cheryl Paron, who works with the First District's NextGen groups. "There were a lot of logistics and the whole team did a great job."
The 11-person planning team handled everything from digital art and emails to creating a referee system, doing test runs and running the show day-of. In the end, they logged around 200 hours of planning time, Randhawa said.
"We used up pretty much all of our two weeks stuck at home," he said.
The game of the day was Rocket League, an arcade-style soccer game with "vehicular mayhem" as described by Epic Games. It can be played on multiple platforms, like a PlayStation or Xbox, making it more accessible to anyone interested in playing. It also offers a hockey-style option, which the organizers chose for their inaugural run.
"Consistently Buzzed," the team representing Kamloops, British Columbia, Local 993, took first place, followed by "Six Two Dive" from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Local 625. "Say Watt," a team made up of members from Local 213 and Hamilton, Ontario, Local 105, took third.
"The tournament was a blast!" said "Consistently Buzzed" team member Cody Anderson. "Not only did NexGen pull us together for a fun weekend, but we actually made new friends in our local."
The event was also streamed on Twitch, a live video streaming platform, that allowed those not playing to participate by watching the action, including some of Anderson's coworkers.
"I had a lot of congratulatory texts come in after the games," Anderson said. "It was a super fun event."
For those who missed out the first time, not to worry. They're doing it again this year and expanding it to the U.S.
"We want this to be an annual event for all IBEW gamers out there, so start practicing," Randhawa said.