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THIS! IS! Starcraft![1]

Game play at the highest level. This is beyond the arcade, way beyond XBOX Live, way, way beyond just sitting on the couch with your buddies. This is the best players in the state/country/world getting together to slug it out, the winner is usually awarded prize money, from mere hundreds, to the hundreds of thousands [2].

Long before the advent of computer games, tournament play was the highest level of traditional board-games, such as Chess, Go and so on. Regardless of the game played, expect to see only the best tactics and strategies. Knowledge of the Metagame is crucial. Hard Core gamers are welcomed. Scrubs are not.

Game tournaments are now a Serious Business, where a really good player might be able to make his living off his winnings. Some players even sign contracts with their teams, like professional athletes. Because of this, they occasionally get some flak from other fans who accuse them of being "Stop Having Fun!" Guys, specifically Tournament players of games like Super Smash Bros, where all items are turned off, and several stages are banned. Consider however:

  • This is Serious Business, after all: who wants to lose the finals just because a bomb spawned on your face?
  • The "Stop Having Fun!" Guys trope is actually about pushing tournament rules outside of tournaments.

Common games at tournaments are Counter-Strike, Warcraft, Quake, Street Fighter, Starcraft, and Halo. Nintendo has sponsored Pokémon and Super Smash Bros tournaments.

Dreams of competing in national tournaments and destroying the 12-year old Asian god-level champion tends to breed tourney-knowledgeable enthusiasts whose verbal knowledge of the games they play tend to be greater than their actual level of skill (which is pretty much the case for many announcers and analysts for non-gaming competitive outlets as well).

Examples of Tournament Play include:

  • Cyberathlete Professional League
  • World Series of Video Games
  • World Cyber Games
  • World e-Sports Games
  • Electronic Sports World Cup
  • Major League Gaming
  • The DCI (originally Duelists' Convocation, now just the acronym) is the organizing body for Magic: The Gathering tournaments.
    • A primer on Magic tournaments.
    • Some people can make a living playing Magic: The Gathering. Pro Tours award hundreds of thousands of dollars, four times a year.
  • The Mecca of Professional Starcraft is South Korea. There are two main individual tournaments, each held twice a year: the OnGameNet StarLeague and the MBC StarLeague. Additionally, 12 teams of players compete in the Proleague, where each match consists of a series of 1v1 games between players on opposing teams. 11 of the teams have corporate sponsors from major companies such as Samsung, MBC and STX. The twelfth team is the team of the Korean Air Force for pros who go because of mandatory conscription. A third individual tournament, the GOM TV Classic had begun to take off but was quickly stifled by Executive Meddling.
    • Blizzard has its own international tournament structure in place for the sequel and some of the major Korean events have switched over to or added the second game as its teething problems were worked out. Many of the famous SC1 players including the 'father of competitive gaming' SlayerSBoxer have taken up the second game as well.
  • Fighting game examples: A-Cho Cup, Super Battle Opera and Evolution.
    • Evolution in particular has featured games you wouldn't believe were there, such as Clay Fighter 63 1/3. It's also the source of the majority of tournament-related memes, such as "Let's go, Justin!" and parts of "It's mahvel, baby!"
    • Evolution has gone on from a simple tournament to both a major fighting game convention as well as a ranking/governing body for other tournaments. Certain smaller tournaments are now part of the Evolution Championship "Season" with players getting ranked and seeded based on results on those tournaments.
  • Warhammer 40000 tournaments are regularly held, including regional "Conflict" events and national Grand Tournaments. They're also absolutely terrifying to behold at the high end.
  • Bemani Top Ranker.
  • Top Quake player Dennis "Thresh" Fong used his tournament winnings and celebrity to launch several websites.
    • In a similar vein, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel has become a pitchman for Creative Labs based on his tournament success. He now also partners with ASRock to create gaming motherboards.
    • Id Software themselves also have the QuakeCons, where, obviously, Quake and Enemy Territory tournaments are hold.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is built on this, with entire forums devoted to discussing the Metagame and things like that.
  • In the Groove had an official tournament while the series was running. Initially, they decided that the main prize would go to the winner of the division that didn't hold on to the support bar, while the support bar division (and most hardcore players used the support bar, since it makes it easier to get higher scores) got basically nothing. No points for guessing how well that went over.
  • Pump It Up tries to have a World Pump Festival every year, challenging players to either come up with the best freestyle routines or step the most accurately to a specific set of songs. Unlike the previously mentioned example, most of the accuracy players have had to play without using the support bar.
  • Fictional example: The Wizard had a NES tournament in the film's climax. It later experienced Defictionalization, albeit in a much simpler form, through the 1990 Nintendo World Championship and its successors, the 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge and the Nintendo PowerFest '94.
  • The Pokémon Company International has run the Pokémon World Championships since 2004, containing tournaments for both the TCG and video games. Much as you'd expect, gentlemen from Smogon regularly dominate the elder divisions of the video game tournaments, having a particularly impressive showing in 2011.
  • The FIFA Interactive World Cup. A FIFA-sanctioned FIFA Soccer game tournament.
  1. OK, maybe parodying Three Hundred wasn't the best idea...
  2. NASL Season 3 total winnings will be a whopping 200K