Major League Gaming loves Columbus

Kristen Schmidt, Columbus Alive

It is completely by design that Major League Gaming's Pro Circuit Winter Championship is rolling into Columbus this weekend: We have the dream audience built right in.

"It's for the population density and for the demographic - 18-to-34 male - and Columbus is a shining star for that," said Adam Apicella, the league's senior vice president. "There's a built-in population of people who, without flying in, will be interested in this event."

It helps that Apicella is an alumnus of Ohio University, too.

Major League Gaming has brought events to Columbus for a few years - gamers last visited in June. And Apicella says he hopes the league will keep coming back. Besides the built-in audience, he says the city and convention center have been welcoming and easy to work with.

All the better for the "tens of thousands of in-person spectators" the weekend's event promises to deliver to the Arena District and Short North. Thousands more are expected to watch via a live online stream.

If you've never been to this sort of thing before, you can expect something akin to a sporting event experience. Live play takes place on a stage, and games are projected on giant screens. Commentators call the games, and fans hoot and holler right along. The room isn't full of just guys, either - Apicella says one in four gaming enthusiasts is a gal these days. That's pretty good odds for the ladies.

Gamers are competing in just a few games: "StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty" on PC; "Halo: Reach" on Xbox 360; and "Mortal Kombat 9," "Soul Calibur V" and "King of Fighters XIII" on PlayStation 3.

"The two factors that go into [choosing games] is, number one, is it competitive? Does the best player win? And there has to be enough of a grassroots population that likes it," Apicella said.

Lest you think this is a big version of your local gaming shop's weekend tournament, consider that winners will take home a total of $205,000 in prize money. That's nearly double the loot at stake in last June's Columbus competition.

Greater Columbus Convention Center

Friday, March 23-Sunday, March 25

400 N. High St., Arena District