Heroes of the Dorm Comes Home
The beauty of the Blizzard Arena
Written by: Midseasons
In the four years of its existence, Heroes of the Dorm has done its fair share of traveling. The tournament’s Heroic Four finals have taken place anywhere from Seattle’s CenturyLink Field to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, with broadcast partners in ESPN2 and Facebook. 2018 marked a homecoming for the collegiate tournament in two ways, broadcast via the community-preferred Twitch from the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles.
Since opening in September 2017, the Blizzard Arena has been primarily known as the home of the Overwatch League. Heroes of the Storm has graced its stage before, but this Heroes of the Dorm final marked the first time a non-Overwatch event at the Arena was open to the public. HotS fans filled the arena all Saturday, cheering for the universities and for the game itself. It was a landmark day not just for the HotS community, but for the venue. If you follow us on Twitter during the event, you saw that we were at the Arena that day, doing our best to share the experience with you throughout the event.
The Burbank arena was made to be the hub for all Blizzard esports, and it shows in the Warcraft art that decorates the concession stand, the vignettes to past WCS winners playing on screens in its upper lobby. Like the Nexus itself, the Blizzard Arena will play host to all of Blizzard’s worlds, and a Heroes of the Storm event brings it closer to that goal. This is doubly important since as successful as the Overwatch League has been, the Blizzard Arena won’t be its home forever, with teams planning to secure their own venues in their home cities. When Burbank filled with the familiar faces of the HotS community—Dorm alumni, HGC players, casters, streamers, Blizzard staff—it gave a glimpse of the future for both Heroes of the Storm and the Blizzard Arena. Since that day, Blizzard has announced that the Arena will host part of the HGC 2018 finals leading up to BlizzCon, building on the successful foundation laid by Dorm.
During Heroes of the Dorm, the Blizzard Arena transformed into a celebration of the Nexus.
Heroes of the Dorm was the ideal event to bring HotS into the Arena. After four years running, the event remains unique in esports, with collegiate teams tied distinctly to the universities they represent. Like the Overwatch League and its cities, teams in Heroes of the Dorm are connected to real, physical places, providing a natural point of reference for the audience. This was writ large across the grand final’s narratives: the chance to claim a title for Buffalo’s rich but undecorated sports history, versus the French-Canadian pride of Université Laval. Heroes fans looked forward to the day when a HotS event would be in the arena, but an HGC series would have lacked this intangible sense of setting and location. Dorm’s representative universities give each match a sense of physical stakes even on a digital battleground, and that quality is perfect to pave the way for future Heroes events at the Blizzard Arena. There’s a synergistic connection between the Blizzard Arena as a venue and Heroes of the Dorm as a tournament that amplifies both. Capturing this feeling is part of the Arena’s goal, to become the primary physical place that players and fans imagine when they think of all Blizzard esports—to become not just a location, but a destination.
It is fitting that the next HotS event at the Arena will be the Opening Week of HGC Finals. This gives the Heroes of the Storm community a chance to unite and cheer for international HGC teams they would otherwise have never seen, and ties the Arena into BlizzCon. After a decade of operation, BlizzCon has already achieved the mystique that Blizzard is now trying to imbue into the Arena, a gathering place that celebrates the game’s community at all levels of play. Plus, by having an opening event in Burbank leading up to the convention in Anaheim, Blizzard is staking claim on a sizable chunk of Southern California for an entire week. As attendants travel the area from Burbank to Anaheim, with many also visiting the Blizzard Entertainment campus in Irvine, over fifty miles of land will become marked in their minds as Blizzard’s territory.
It’s our prediction that the Opening Week of the finals will become one of the most memorable events in HotS’ competitive history. It may seem incredibly early to be saying this, but we’ve been to the Blizzard Arena ourselves and felt the atmosphere it has to offer. The HGC Finals deserve that atmosphere, to give the event a life of its own.
As for Heroes of the Dorm, the Blizzard Arena is still a fitting home. The collegiate tournament is very different from the HGC finals, but both events are perfectly situated in Burbank. It’s possible that the Heroic Four will travel again in 2019, but we’re hoping it returns to the Arena next year, and every year thereafter. The event and the venue feel made for each other.
Fern “Midseasons” Rojas is a writer in Los Angeles, and an increasingly frequent sight around the Blizzard Arena. If you see him, say hello! If you aren’t at the Arena, then you can follow Fern’s thoughts on Twitter instead. You can still say hello there, too.