International video game competition arrives in Raleigh with cosplay advisory

Rainbow Six: Siege video game trailer

Watch the trailer for Ubisoft's Rainbow Six: Siege video game.
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Watch the trailer for Ubisoft's Rainbow Six: Siege video game.

Special military teams have descended on Raleigh this week. But police want to reassure those who might see uniformed people downtown ... it’s just a game.

An international video-game competition is underway at the Raleigh Convention Center, with the final bouts expected to play out before a sold-out crowd.

The Raleigh Major features 16 teams playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, a popular first-person shooter video game where the player experiences combat situations through the perspective of the protagonist. Some of the 6,000 fans attending the event will likely wear fake soldier uniforms with fake weapons.

In the game, players pick characters who are part of a special military team that fights terrorists. The game was created by Ubisoft and hit more than 45 million players earlier this year.

Playoff matches between the teams have begun, and tickets have sold out for this weekend’s finals. Only ticket holders will be able to watch the game live and receive in-game prizes like weapon charms and different weapon skins.

The event includes an exhibition area free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday, featuring gameplay and demos, an Ubisoft job fair, video game vendors and merchandise, character face painting, caricature drawings and information about the newest DLC (downloadable content) for the game.

Seven million people from across the world are expected to watch the matches on Twitch, an online streaming service. Fans who watch the stream for hours can get in-game charms, called drops.

Cosplay questions

Like many similar events, the competition will attract some dedicated fans who will likely dress as characters. This is called cosplay, combining the words costume and play.

The Raleigh Police Department emailed some property owners along Fayetteville Street alerting them of the competition and included photos of Rainbow Six cosplayers.

“As you can see in the provided pictures it attracts a lot of people that like to dress in very realistic looking military type gear,” the email said. “Let all your people know that this event is going on, so when they start seeing these type of costumes on Friday they will know what is going on.”

A phone call from The News & Observer to the department for more information about the email was not returned late Wednesday.

No real weapons or firearms will be allowed at the convention center and fake weapons will be tagged and checked at the center.

“Just as is the case with most world-class esports tournaments, the event organizer, Ubisoft, in coordination with the City of Raleigh have employed a variety of security measures to ensure a safe environment including credentials, metal detectors, bag checks, uniformed and undercover Raleigh Police Department officers, security cameras, K-9 units and more,” according to a Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (Visit Raleigh) press release.

A look at e-sports, the fast-growing, lucrative world of professional competitive video gaming.

Esports in Raleigh

The Raleigh Major was recruited through the Greater Raleigh Esports Local Organizing Committee, which is part of the Visit Raleigh’s plan for the city to become a “premier global esports destination.”

The visitors bureau hired Big Block as a consultant to help push the city toward that goal.

“That’s the key here. For people who know Raleigh and have seen the growth, they know about the corporate communities in technology and gaming publishers and developers,” said Ed Tomasi, managing director of esports for Big Block. “But for people outside of the region, (those connections) are a little bit less known. That’s why hosting such a global esport event puts Raleigh on the map.”

This is the first major video game competition the city has hosted in over five years. But Raleigh is already starting to receive interest from other large esport producers and companies that want to hold tournaments and events here, Tomasi said.

“At the end of the day we like to say that the greater Raleigh community not only plays and watches esports, but we also make and design the software and technologies that helps power the global esports industry,” according to a Visit Raleigh news release.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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