DreamHack was founded in 1994 in Europe and made its debut in the United States with DreamHack Austin in 2016. DreamHack is best described as a gaming lifestyle convention. It houses tabletop tournaments, a large 24-hour LAN area, an expo floor with developers and vendors (from artists to gaming accessory companies like HyperX), a concert, and eSports tournaments with more than $400,000 in winnings this year. When it comes to gaming, Dreamhack serves as a community building experience where you can choose general admission or Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) passes which allow you to enter the LAN tournaments and game with the people you meet throughout the 3-day event.
I didn’t attend DreamHack 2016, however, I did go to DreamHack Austin (DHATX) in 2017 (We. After getting tickets through Groupon for $9 last year, we decided to buy the $79 3-day passes, not sure if the convention would be worth the higher price on our end. To put it simply, it was worth every penny. Having grown in size this year, DHATX is the first convention I’ve been to in the city that has utilized every piece of the expo hall floor continuously. Having been the large SXSW Expo Hall in 2016 didn’t even fill the floor. Usually, the floor will be partitioned off for use but here, even the food court that usually takes up space on the con floor was pushed to a service hallway to make room for more seating and play areas next to the fighter tournaments.
Having doubled in size, so did their main event. With a Bud Light fan area, a large stage and bleacher-style seating CSGO was the main attraction in 2017. However, this year, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) blew all of that away. With a large two-story stage that housed 16 spaces for the duos and squads rounds of the tournament. With a prize pool of $100,000, it was a sight to see and one of the hardest stages to get close to if you weren’t in a seat early by the time the matches started.
Broken into duos and squads each tournament had pieces that drew in the crowds. For the duos rounds, it was the performance of Shroud and Dr. Disrespect, two of the most well-known PUBG streamers and players. For the squads, it was both the amazing performance from the tournament winners FaZe Clan but also the BYOC tournament that allowed those at the convention to compete for one of four spots among the pros. Although three of the BYOC tourney winners were established or up-and-coming eSports teams, one was an amateur squad playing with the pros.
Beyond PUBG, DHATX also hosted the DreamHack Open pro-am tournament for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where eight teams competed for a $100,00 pot. They also hosted the Dreamhack Fighting Game Championships which consisted consisted of tournaments for for Brawlhalla, Dragon Ball FigtherZ, Pokken Tournament DX, Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros. Melee (& for WiiU), Tekken 7, Guilty Gear XRD Rev 2, and BlazBlue Central Fiction with a combined pool of $52,000 given to the winners. They also hosted the DreamHack Hearthstone Grad Prix ($15,000), Rainbow Six: Siege ($50,000), and a stop on the StarCraft II World Championship series ($100,000).
However, beyond the prize pools, BYOC tournaments also had a strong showing with Overwatch, PUBG, CS: GO, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Quake. With all the competition and excitement around it, there wasn’t enough time in the day to attend every match or game you wanted to see. The number of stages on the con floor was also emphasized when the Hearthstone Grand Prix was moved to an adjacent ballroom. Navigating the crowds was difficult but as the crowds roared for their favorites taking the lead or let out a loud sigh when their team got flanked and eliminated, if you’re looking for an eSports experience, look no further than DreamHack.
As a convention for gaming culture, of course, there was more to the convention than video game competitions. There was also a Cosplay championship judged by the famous Yaya-Han, Jennifer Van Damsel, and Meg Turney. Bringing the world of video games to life, the expo hall was filled with cosplay. Yaya-Han also had a meet-n-greet at the streaming area right in the center of the con floor.
Continuing to provide an entire experience and not just another “walk the show floor, go to panels, go home” repetitiveness that a lot of conventions fall into, DHATX also featured a concert on Friday night with Tokyo Machine and EDM powerhouses Pegboard Nerds and Krewella.
With so much to do and only three days to do it, DHATX has become a convention so large that it leaves you wanting more even as day three came to an end. It is amazing the amount of growth that the convention has had in just one year. In both space usage and crowd size, DHATX has become the largest and most exciting convention I’ve attended in Texas – and I go to all the gaming ones. I’m looking forward to next year and definitely putting DreamHack Atlanta on the calendar. As a gamer, the convention felt like home and that’s how the gaming community should feel.