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Gear Up for the Game Gym Summer Bash August 21-23, 2020

Game Gym will be holding its Summer Bash gaming event later this month on August 21-23, 2020. Drawing from around the DMV (District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia) area, gamers will be in for a weekend of tournaments, panels, and talks from members of the community. The event aims to combine educational aspects with gaming competition while also raising money for the District of Columbia’s Children’s National Health System. The current goal is for Summer Bash to raise $25,000 USD with an overall goal for the year of $50,000 USD.

Fully titled The DMV’s End of Summer Bash, the online event boasts an impressive array of panels and talks about all sorts of gaming-related topics. Arnie Niekamp, the writer/director at Jackbox Games and host of the Hello from The Magic Tavern podcast, will make an appearance to play Jackbox party games with the audience. Various presentations on how to break into various parts of the gaming industry will also be broadcast. Panels on increasing the diversity of esports, the growing acceptance of esports among schools, and local leaders from the local competitive scene will all be available online, too! The Washington Justice Overwatch League team will be participating throughout the event.

Tournaments will center around three games: Overwatch, Rocket League, and Valorant, each with cash and physical prizes. Sponsors of the event like HyperX and PDP Gaming will have their sponsorship money split between Extra Life, tournament prize pools, and Game Gym’s expenses. Additionally, all tournament participants will be encouraged to make fundraising pages on the Extra Life site.

Impressed with the organization behind the tournament, we reached out to Evan Shubin, Game Gym’s COO, to learn how all of these elements came together. We also talked about the unique combination of educational presentations and the challenges of coordinating a competitive online event like the Summer Bash during a pandemic.

Jack Gardner: Game Gym focuses on a unique combination of education and tournament play and that can be seen in the End of Summer Bash’s programming schedule. Where did that fusion come from and can you elaborate on the relation of those two elements?

Evan Shubin: Our vision was to create a community esports center where kids could have fun, get better at gaming, but also become more disciplined – like a cross between a rec center and a dojo. In everything we do, we want to offer a healthy approach to gaming, incorporating physical exercise and education, plus training and guidance from our certified Game Gym coaches. It’s not just about having fun and getting better at the game, it’s also about understanding how esports can help develop life skills while being a healthy part of your life.

JG: How do you decide what topics you want to highlight with talks and panel discussions?

ES: Our goal in developing the topics for the Bash was to have something for everyone – serious gamers, young kids and teens, college students, and parents of all ages. And, we wanted to let everyone know that there are viable career paths in esports beyond just becoming a professional gamer. If you are passionate about video games, you can make a living doing what you love – as a coach, as an analyst, as a marketer – the opportunities are growing bigger every year! We also want to highlight the people and organizations in our area who are working incredibly hard to foster a thriving esports ecosystem here in the DMV. 

JG: One of the defining features of the End of Summer Bash is the collaboration of a wide variety of organizations. How did all of these come together for the event and how did Extra Life become involved in the tournament?

ES: Many of these orgs are folks that we’ve known for years and worked with before. The esports industry is small at the local level and we’ve done everything in our power to support our community – we’ve partnered to produce online summer camps with VYSA (Virginia Youth Soccer Association) and Wizards District Gaming (the esports division of the Washington Wizards). We’ve hosted the Washington Justice at our Rockville headquarters and served as the practice area for visiting Overwatch teams during the Justice’s homestands last Spring. And, we’ve worked closely with OTN and Esports Fair Play on many tournaments and other special events over the years. So, it was like getting a bunch of old friends together for a backyard barbeque!  

Regarding Extra Life, we always knew we wanted to give back to the community outside of esports, but an intro to Hank helped get the ball rolling. A number of us at Game Gym have direct ties to Children’s National Hospital, so it seemed like a great fit from the very beginning and we look forward to this being the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. 

We are also pleased to announce a great new partner – both our End of the Summer Bash and our (soon to be announced) Winter event are now presented by Events DC. We are really excited about this new development – we share a vision of elevating the DC metro area into a premier location for esports at all levels, which will, in turn, drive worldwide interest for placing events of all types at Washington, DC venues. Events DC seeks to bolster the top level of this “pyramid” with national and international tournaments and other live events, and Game Gym exists to nurture and grow the grassroots level of the pyramid. Together, we are building a great future for esports in the DMV, and elevating the image of Washington, DC as a premier international destination.

JG: Have you encountered any difficulties setting up The Bash in the middle of this pandemic and how has it affected Game Gym’s various other programs?

ES: The pandemic has certainly offered up some challenges but also created some opportunities for us. We miss the face to face – in the past we’ve offered live tournaments and weekday afternoon “training and gaming” sessions at our Rockville facility, and in-person summer camps in Rockville, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. But, we’ve been able to take each of those programs online during this difficult time, and we’re really happy to be able to foster a sense of community and healthy gaming while everyone is stuck at home. We wish that everyone could be together in person for the Bash, but it has allowed us to extend our reach beyond our “home base” of the DC metro area – in terms of speakers, tournament participants, and partners.

JG: One of the most intriguing aspects of the End of Summer Bash is the dedication to highlighting innovation in the gaming space. What kind of response have you seen after giving the public a platform to show off games, inventions, programs, or ideas?

ES: The response has been amazing! We had a number of sign-ups the week we announced the Bash and it continued to build from there. When you think about how far esports has come in the past ten years innovation has been a key driver for all of that. New games, new products, new ways of doing things all add to the excitement and growth in the industry. We wanted to celebrate that growth and innovation and give people in the DMV a platform to share their ideas and tell their stories. We’ve received a number of opportunities to tell the Game Gym story which has been incredibly beneficial, and we want to make sure others have that same opportunity. 

Register for the event happening August 21-23, 2020 here.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!