Video games are not just child’s play any more.
One of the first popular gaming consoles, the Atari 2600, is more than 40 years old and its original fans are well into adulthood.
The continued enthusiasm of those old school gamers was a surprise for Lance Jefferson and Daniel Scott when they launched Gamers Bay in 2016.
The NetGeekz Media founders expected mostly teens and a handful of young professionals to attend Cayman’s first gaming tournament and technology convention.
Instead, they discovered a multigenerational group of Cayman Islanders, simultaneously interested in the latest online gaming and nostalgic about the industry’s origins.
“You can see the generations of gamers. You can see the 30‑year-old gamers that grew up with Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. But then you have the next generation of gamers who grew up with PS3 and PS4 who only know online gaming,” Scott said.
“To have both generations come together and meld together to grow has been phenomenal.”
The gaming event has garnered so much interest that it has been moved this year from the Camana Bay ARC to the larger John Gray High School gymnasium, and the programme has been expanded to two days, 28‑29 Sept.
Jefferson and Scott are expecting around 1,500 spectators this year. Half of the gymnasium will host a gaming and technology convention and the other half will host the eSports competition, including cash prizes for winners in Apex Legends, Fortnite, FIFA 19 and Super Smash Bros.
By showcasing the latest technology alongside known YouTubers and gamers, the organisers hope to introduce younger players to the range of possibilities associated with the industry.
Like last year, they will be partnering with the Ministry of Education, the Youth Services Unit and the Art Institute to offer a full-day workshop for high schoolers and UCCI students interested in the gaming industry.
Jefferson remembers being discouraged as a young gamer by well-meaning adults who told him, “You can’t go nowhere with that”. Gamers Bay seeks to send the opposite message, that education in gaming and technology can translate into career possibilities.
Skill sets in coding and programming, graphic design, and virtual reality can open doors for young people. Scott added that gaming provides other lessons to young people, such as teamwork and sportsmanship, as well as cognitive reasoning and problem-solving.
“There is such a wide spectrum of things they can do within that industry,” Scott said. “The focus is to let them see the opportunities that are game related and the different things they can pursue.”
Another workshop will be held at Layman E. Scott High School on 23 Sept. in Cayman Brac.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had an opportunity to be a part of this,” Jefferson said.
The presence of YouTube stars, including Driftor, Jesse Fangs, Chelsea Kreiner and TMartin, will show the creative side of the industry and provide real-life examples of digital success.
“Our goal when we bring down our YouTubers is to highlight the Cayman Islands,” Jefferson said.
“We’re trying to position the Cayman Islands as the eSports hub of the Caribbean.”
With competitive gaming teams travelling from Jamaica and the United States for the event, it appears Cayman is moving in that direction.
For more information, visit www.gamersbaycayman.com.