Score esports, Hard(s)core Gaming for Helsinki’s youth!
Arriving in Helsinki, I couldn’t wait to go to a whole new esports facility: a youth ‘clubhouse’ set up by the municipality of Helsinki for gamers. No bar, no restaurant, no flashy design, just your typical community building like we all know them: functional design, houses various projects (in this case I also saw children daycare and a library), screaming nonprofit in every detail. I’m really glad to be here, because this is gaming at its roots. There’re no alternate reasons to come here like for instance the music, food or to see or be seen. The kids that come here simply want to play esports so that’s what they do. Of course there’s a social aspect to it as well, the core group that comes here fools around every now and then between games and they probably interact on a personal level as well when one has a problem and wants to talk about it, but basically all they do when they come in is greet, sit down, start up the pc and game. Then they go home again. The room is filled with pure love for gaming.
That might also be one of the reasons why they’re trusted with the key and the security code to the place and have the responsibility to lock up and make sure nothing is broken or gets stolen. If you would do this in The Netherlands, the whole place would be empty (stolen and wracked) within a week. Not here. Jaakko, one of the youth workers that supervises (in theory, because there’s nothing to supervise really), explains he needs to be there in case someone wants to talk and because you can’t give full responsibility to a minor. He, as the adult, is always ultimately responsible, however, these kids can be left without guidance any time. Once in a while there’s an educational aspect happening. The day I arrived, there was a woman studying internet behavior, especially bullying, and she was addressing the group on when she would come, what they would talk about and what she expected from them. All the kids listened and took note and then got on with their game again.
The reason they come to the clubhouse is mostly the lack of equipment at home. They’re not troubled kids that need to be kept off the street, like so often the reason youth houses are set up. There are 56 youth houses in Helsinki, none of them for troubled children, all of them just to facilitate whatever parents can’t afford to give. The vibe in all the houses is the same as in this one, the gamers room is filled with quiet and focused kids, the rest of the rooms are more lively and all of the rooms are relaxed, clean and well organized. There’s a kitchen downstairs where they can cook if they want to, food is donated by supermarkets that have products going out of (sell)date. Everybody cleans up their own mess and respects each other.
Besides all that, the house has a special game room for teams that come to Helsinki to play in tournaments and want to practice. Nice detail; the room is also used by the Overwatch team that has partnered with the Helsinki Icehockey team The Helsinki Reds. Where all over Europe soccer teams hire a Fifa player, in Finland icehockey hires an overwatch team. The reasons are the same though: 1 traditional sports realize they should somehow be involved with esports, 2 it’s a way of getting- or keeping in touch with the young fanbase and 3 sports institutes are independent firms that need to make money to keep existing. Esports is a way of making money.
Back to the kids. To give you an impression of how loud the kids are: it was Tuesday, so LoL gameday. They were focused and a bit nervous, not sure if they could win from Kappa, the 3 round winner so far. The game started, it was silent, all you could hear were clicks and sometimes an instruction by the leader, I was looking at them towards the end of the game, camera in hand, ready to film the victory moment and completely missed it. Why? Because when they won, they simply stopped playing without making a sound. When I realized the clicking had stopped, I looked at one of them and he just turned his head and said; ‘that’s it, we won’. No victory cheer, no ‘YES!’ nothing. Watch their reaction here:https://www.twitch.tv/videos/154332165?collection=di6e6Y8RxxT2sA These are the kids from Score Helsinki and they’re good kids!
The interview with Jaakko can be seen here; https://www.twitch.tv/videos/154332967