If you see a flock of kids heading to the movie theater this week, they may not be hoping to catch the latest Hollywood reboot of a comic-book superhero story. Some of them might be heading indoors to play video games on the big screen.
Super League Gaming, which hosts competitive video game leagues for children inside movie theaters, is launching its first-ever Boston event today at the AMC Theater near Boston Common. It’s part of a 25-city national tour for Super League Gaming, which also has stops scheduled for Braintree on Tuesday and Danvers on Wednesday. The tour is meant partially to promote the league’s main event in October, a six-week tournament that’s an expansion of the summer’s one-day events.
In these shorter contests, kids are split up into teams and tasked with building a battle-ready dinosaur in Minecraft, an online game that allows players to create their own virtual worlds.
Once the dinosaurs are built, the game is switched into a “Hunger Games” scenario that pits the teams directly against each other in combat. Each kid will control their character on a personal laptop while the big screen shows a bird’s-eye view of the overall game map, allowing players to see their position in the larger competition. Each game is a 100-minute session, and kids who do well will have the chance to see their names up on the leaderboards.
Super League Gaming originated as a way to reincarnate the spirit of video arcades from an earlier generation, when kids would play games while standing next to each other instead of speaking over a headset to someone hundreds of miles away, Super League Gaming president Brett Morris said.
“Parents come in and see their kids for the first time hanging out with other gamers,” he said. “It’s a great environment.”
Minecraft was considered a perfect game to get kids interested in the idea of competitive play because of its popularity — it has more than 100 million registered users — and open-ended design, which allows Super League Gaming to customize the game for a theater format, Morris said.
Video-game tournaments have been attracting growing crowds of spectators in recent years. The phenomenon, known as e-sports, has even packed thousands of people into professional sports stadiums and attracted millions of online viewers to the most popular contests. Last year, Amazon purchased online video-game streaming service Twitch for $970 million.
But while much of the competitive gaming world is focused on the professional level, Super League Gaming sees a gap in the kind of Little League-style tournaments that could still teach kids teamwork without the adult-level pressures of performing.
“If you look at the gaming landscape from a consumer perspective, there’s major-league gaming as a brand,” he said. “We want to do the minor leagues instead of the majors.”