The former home of The Tonight Show is now a multi-million dollar eSports arena. And I got a first-hand VIP tour.
Confession time: Even though it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 26 percent, I love the movie The Wizard. It’s the story of a young kid and his brother who run away from home and hitchhike cross-country to play in a massive video game tournament. Watching the film as a kid gave me a dream I didn’t even know I had up: I suddenly wanted nothing more than to escape my life of obscurity and become a video game champion.
While I may have never won a video game tournament — save for a clutch performance at a New Jersey Toys R Us during Super Star Fox Weekend in 1993 — this past year I finally got my chance to live the dream of playing on stage at Blizzard Arena at the Burbank Studios. It’s Los Angeles’s newest eSports broadcasting facility, built in the former home of NBC’s Late Night with Johnny Carson.
Before the real eSports professionals like EnVyUs took the stage to dominate opening weekend, I got the chance the night before to play a few Overwatch matches myself as part of a VIP all-access media tour. Though 99 percent of my experience with the game is on console (PS4), I still wrecked my competition as Soldier 76. You have no idea how delicious those salty media exhibition game tears are. Yum yum.
If you’re in the Southern California area, I definitely recommend catching a match at history-rich Blizzard Arena. You won’t be able to catch me play (sad!), but the place is legit amazing. And it’s beyond incredible watching the pros go at it live.
Can’t make the trip? Don’t worry: I’ve written up a photo tour of my experience for CNET.com.
PS: In The Wizard, when Jimmy was playing Super Mario Bros. 3 at Video Armageddon, how the hell did he know where to find the warp whistle in the World 1 Fortress? He just flies right to it, like he’s been playing the game all his life — even though it wasn’t released for the NES the following year. And you need to know to skip the fire flower power-up, even though it offers 1,000 tempting points. And Jimmy’s friends shouting to him in the audience know exactly what a warp whistle is and what it does? I know this is an almost 30-year-old gripe at this point, but come on.