By Yousuf Zaidi

Precaution after precaution couldn’t prepare the organizers for what occurred at the Campus Carball Rocket League tournament in December 2023. Months of planning, organizing, recruiting and executing — only to be foiled by Eminem and one of the largest games in the world.

Campus Carball, a student-run esports tournament for the hit video game Rocket League was formed by a group of eight students for their Toronto Metropolitan University RTA Sports Media program practicum. The tournament was an idea thought up by student Colin Doyle, alongside his good friend Julián Quintero Verano and six of their colleagues. As an avid fan of esports, Doyle wanted to create his own tournament.

Rocket League is a video game in which soccer is played but with rocket powered cars instead of humans. As an esport, Rocket League has a following of over 450,000 fans. Its 2022-2023 world championship tournament had a prize pool of $2,100,000.

The majority of Rocket League tournaments happen online. Doyle sought to create an offline, in-person tournament, utilising the Red Bull Gaming Hub located inside of TMU’s Rogers Communication Centre. The tournament would also be broadcasted live on Twitch.

Putting together an entire professional level tournament is no small feat. From broadcast to the game floor and all the behind the scenes negotiations, each member of the team had a role to play.

For an entire semester, the eight students diligently prepared for the tournament they would be hosting on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, 2023. Colin Doyle, using his experience and knowledge from previous esports endeavors and connections with the TMU esports Club, organized the tournament and brought on volunteers. Anthony Di Fabio assisted Doyle with tournament organizing and acquiring a sponsor for tournament branded t-shirts. Jordan Jacklin produced the broadcast and floor directed on the day. Alex Lalonde ran the audio booth and enabled the tournament to have access to music from the game itself. Jaden Ho was the graphics lead for all broadcast elements. Jacob Bisante created all pre-produced content to be played in between tournament games. Malik Clarke was the technical specialist for the tournament. And Julián Quintero Verano was the art director and commentator on the days of the tournament. 

While everyone worked together setting up the event, unbeknownst to the team, another much larger event was set to take place on exactly the same day as their tournament.

All across the country and the world, the cultural phenomenon Fortnite was beginning its new, massive update. Hyped up for weeks, the game would be entering a new age and introducing a variety of new features and game modes. At 2 p.m. on Dec. 2, Fortnite would be having an in-game event to celebrate the end of the current season of the game and the upcoming season.

To celebrate, Fortnite partnered with a special guest to have a concert in the game: Eminem.

Dec. 2, was also the first day of the Campus Carball tournament that the team has been planning for months. Verano was nervous as he wakes up and puts on his suit for the event.

“I’m going, “oh my God, this is the day — today is the day we get to do a professional level broadcast,” he said. “This is what four years of preparation have been. It just kinda hits at once.”

Alongside the core team of the eight students, 40 plus volunteers showed up to help facilitate the event. Computers are set up, staff lanyards are passed out and broadcast is sets up the cameras for their livestream as the start time nears.

Verano, alongside the broadcast crew, were prepared for the challenges ahead. Something  always messes up with a multi-camera set up like they have for the livestream. “My thought process was just don’t be the one to fuck it up,” he said.

Two hours into the tournament, as the staff were setting up the next match, Verano was sitting at the commentators desk, discussing the previous game with the other commentators. All the staff audio channels were open on his earpiece — and chaos is erupting from it.

Everyone is freaking out, and yelling in despair.  “In my ear, I’m just hearing, ‘oh my God, it’s a mess. that stupid Eminem concert, it took down the servers!”.

Some Rocket League login servers are shared with Fortnite and both games are owned by Epic Games. An overwhelming number of players flooding the servers to experience the Fornite event featuring Eminem. The servers were taken temporarily offline and encore reruns were scheduled.

The Campus Carball event had to be delayed by 50 minutes as matches were rearranged while server issues got resolved.

Fortunately, the event was structured into 50-55 minute time slots, allowing for matches to be rearranged smoothly. Only one game had to be pushed back.

After the exhilarating and exhausting first day of the tournament due to the unforeseen problem that was Fortnite and Eminem, the team went straight to bed to prepare for the next day.

The second day went smoothly. But instead of relishing in the peace, especially after the storm that was the first day, the student team were still on their toes. As RTA students it’s been taught to them countless times that “If you don’t see any fires it’s because you haven’t found it.”

For this student practicum esports tournament that had such technical complexity to it and with managing over 40 volunteers, the only real issue they faced was Eminem and his Fortnite concert.

Being in the RTA Sports Media program and learning about the theories in broadcasting and marketing is beneficial. But after finishing their tournament Doyle says that no matter the theories learned, the situation is always different in the real world.