Inside Esports Arena Las Vegas: The Mind of Bear

 
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Welcome to the Esports Arena Las Vegas Blog, where each week we get to know a member of our staff. For our inaugural entry, we talked to ESALV Esports Manager, Bassem Dahdouh, or as he’s affectionately known throughout the gaming community: Bear

Isaac: Let’s get to the bottom of something right away: you are not a bear nor is that your real name. How did you come by that nickname?

Bear: So originally I used to go by a couple different usernames online, but none really stuck with me. One day I’d decided to make a new account on a website, and since I liked bears, and my friends had been calling me it as a nickname for a while, decided to just go with “Bear”. It really stuck with the fighting community, with my reputation in it as a nice but stern guy, and people just started calling me it all the time, so I just went with it.

Isaac: You’re very involved with the local and global Smash Bros scenes. What drew you to the fighting game community, and esports as a whole? Where did you get your start?

Bear: Growing up in Saudi Arabia I didn’t really have strong internet access, so most of the gaming I did was offline or in an arcade. That really shaped the games I enjoy, since fighting games have always had a strong home there, and nothing beats playing together with friends. As I became older, I wanted more and more people to come out for our little tournaments we created, which gave me my first taste of running and organizing them.

When I approached college, I began to drift away from gaming. It didn’t seem like something you could do as a long term career. When I hit grad school, however, my passion returned, and by 2016 I’d made it into a full-time career organizing events, which included working on EVO.

Isaac: You maintain a prominent role at the Evolution Championship Series (EVO), the world's largest fighting game tournament. As one of the lead organizers of the event, how did you get involved with EVO?

Bear: My first EVO I attended was back in 2012. I’d just moved to Vegas, and it was my first time spectating the event live. A lot of people don’t remember it, but back then EVO was a much smaller event held at Caesar’s Palace, running games like King of Fighters, Soul Calibur V, and Mortal Kombat IX, amongst others. It was an absolutely incredible event, and really invigorated my desire to participate in the community. The following year marked the return of [Super Smash] Melee, and I discovered just how big of a community the game really had going for it.

A couple of years later I ended up volunteering to help out at EVO 2015, and became a full member of the crew in 2016. The Smash community has really helped me settle into Vegas and allowed me to make plenty of new friends here. It's been an absolutely fantastic experience!

Isaac: Now you’re the Esports Manager here at the Esports Arena Las Vegas - How’s that working out?

Bear: Before I worked at the Arena, I was working from home for Smash.GG. It was a great place, but I really had come to miss hosting events as, outside of EVO, I hadn’t been running tournaments in a while. I saw an opportunity to get back into that when a position for Esports Manager opened up, and decided to take the plunge. I really wanted to be able to interact with the community again, and bring new gaming experiences to people, such as creating Saturday Night Speedway featuring Mario Kart or Wednesday Whiffs for the Smash scene.

Isaac: Speaking of fighting games, what would you say your favorite moment in the fighting game community is?

Bear: I’d definitely say Genesis III in San Jose, CA, when Zero took on Ranai in Smash Bros WiiU. Zero played Shiek into Ranai’s Animal Crossing Villager… it was just such an incredible match-up!

Isaac: Now I really need to go back and watch some VODs of that match, sounds really exciting to watch! Is there any other esport scene you’re interested in and would like to build upon now that you’re managing esports at ESALV?

Bear: I’ve always been interested in the Battle Royal genre. The community’s growth really reminds me of the grassroot beginnings for Smash. There’s so much learning the community is doing about how to run tournaments and work with the game’s limited spectating tool to make an exciting viewing experience. Throwing events like Tuesday Drops and Friday Frags really allows us to engage with that community and help them grow.

Isaac: You’ve led the efforts to create our weekly Smash Bros 4 tournament night. How have you felt the community’s response to the event has been, and what do you hope for it going forward?

Bear: The biggest thing I’ve seen with the community so far is their happiness that I’m back to hosting events. For me personally though, I’m excited for how much production value we put into it. A lot of these players don’t often get the chance to experience playing on the big stage with a huge production set-up. Any small venue can host a Smash tournament, but none can really make it into a huge spectacle like we can. Removing the venue fee for the event also allows us to lower the barrier for entry for players, as in my past experience a $5-$10 fee on top of the prize pool addition can really prevent someone from participating.

It’s current form, however, is just the beginning. The goal is for Wednesday Whiffs to lead into the launch of Smash Bros Ultimate for the Switch, and allow us to hit the ground running with tournaments and events supporting the game!

Isaac: What events here at the Arena are you most looking forward to over the next two months, and can you tell us a bit about them and why you’re excited?

Bear: So in October we’ve got the Big Buck Hunter World Finals coming to our venue, and honestly I’m super excited for it! It was one of my favorite games back in the arcades, and getting to see it on a competitive level is going to be such an incredible new experience, especially for people coming in to visit.

Beyond that I can’t talk about much, but there are two things I can say: first, consistent weekly tournaments are important to us, and we will continue to add and grow them over the coming months, for gamers from all genres. Secondly, I’d like to say that it won’t all be hard core competition. We’ve got some more relaxed party game events and experiences coming down the pipe in this period as well, for those that want to just hangout, make friends, and have fun.

Isaac: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers before we close out?

Bear: Of course! If anyone has any questions or comments about or events, they can reach out to me here at the Arena, or online, I’m always open to talk.

Thanks Bear! Well it’s been a pleasure talking with you today.

Check back next week for another ESALV team member profile or you can also sign up to receive our weekly eblasts or follow us on social media (@ESALasVegas) for the latest news and interviews.

This is Isaac “Raptearer” Chandler signing off!

 
Austen Roberts