As an e-sports and CounterStrike 2 fan, I’ve never actually been to an event and I’m almost certain anyone else who follows or plays a competitive game has been in the same situation – you’ve seen the games, but you’ve never really experienced it
IEM Katowice would be my first ever e-sports event where the best CS2 teams battle it out to win a $1m prize pool on one of the most prestigious events so the anticipation was palpable.
I had never visited Poland either, let alone Katowice. When you think of travelling to Poland, Katowice would probably not be on your radar but it’s a city rapidly undergoing change.
From a mining area that was known for its coal and steel – it is slowly transforming into one of the best cities in Poland when it comes to culture and becoming the place in Poland where you go for events – dubbing itself as the ‘City of Events’. Thousands of people visit Katowice for festivals and business events and every year Intel Extreme Masters goes to the Spodek Arena and sell out the seats.
The Spodek Arena – that uniquely looks like a flying saucer – is a spectacle in the city despite being built in the 1970s. For IEM Katowice, it houses 10,000 people for the three-day sold-out event that’s filled to the brim gamers, e-sports professionals and it doesn’t stop there.
Attached onto the event is its own gaming expo where companies show off the newest and the best products about to hit the market or already available. Every day the room is filled to the brim with gamers trying out new hardware from companies like Acer Predator, MSI and Intel.
When you enter the arena, you’re welcomed by like-minded fans who want are eager to watch their favourite team try to go and win it all. Then when you’re in the Expo, that environment flips to fans who want to relax, play some games and find out about the newest gaming peripherals.
The hustle and bustle of cosplayers, professionals, staff and fans is intoxicating and something that immediately draws you in.
Despite its impressive look on the outside, the Spodek does feel slightly dated when you enter which is completely flipped on its head when you enter the main seating area and the expo. Being dated doesn’t really matter when it’s filled to the brim with the most up-to-date production value and the newest gaming PCs, monitors and handheld peripherals that you can buy.
But it doesn’t stop there because the best thing about an event at IEM are the games themselves.
Every match, thousands of people fill the main arena, scores of fans screaming after every single kill on the board with fire exploding in front of your face.
It’s something you will get from a standard sports event and there’s nothing that can really match it. Not even a gig starring your favourite band or artist thanks to the brilliant production value that’s organised for the event – massive screens detailing everything you would want to see and an impressive lightshow that needs to be seen to be believed.
The grand final saw FaZe Clan vs Team Spirit face off each other which rocked the arena and the surrounding streets around it. It was an experience to be remembered.
IEM Katowice was one of the my most memorable moments and its something every fan of video games or e-sports should try.
And if you’ve made it this far thinking to yourself “but I know nothing about CounterStrike 2” or other competitive e-sports games, don’t worry because there are enough fans and staff who are happy to explain how it works.
But if you don’t want to fly to Poland or another country, ESL One Birmingham will be taking place from April 26 to April 28 and you can get tickets here.