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Building a Team Nunavut for video games

PubG tournament coming to the Kivalliq
Cambridge Bay’s makerspace, organized by Aliak Consulting, opened last fall, allowing youth to gather and explore technology with each other. The Nunavut Gaming Society, also organized by Aliak Consulting, is hosting an online tournament to connect youth across the territory and create a team of top gamers. Photo courtesy of Nunavut Gaming Society

Kivalliq youth who excel at online gaming, now’s your time to shine.

The Nunavut Gaming Society is hosting a territory-wide online tournament for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, with the Kivalliq portion coming up this weekend.

Beyond prizes for winning, the host society has a long-term vision and is looking to establish a team of players across Nunavut to practise together, compete in international gaming competitions and even get paid to play regularly.

“Especially with Covid and everything that’s happened in the world, we’re just trying to keep (youth) occupied,” said Valter Botelho-Resendes of Aaliak Consulting, whose organization was also responsible for development of Cambridge Bay’s digital makerspace, which opened last fall. The makerspace is now owned and run by the municipality of Cambridge Bay.

The tournament, for players ages 14 to 30, has been making its way through Nunavut region-by-region. Upward of 55 youth played in the Cambridge Bay event, with about 100 in the Kitikmeot, and Botelho-Resendes expected the Baffin portion Feb. 12 and 13 to be the biggest yet. On Feb. 19 and 20, it will be the Kivalliq’s turn.

Afterward, Botelho-Resendes is hoping to have a top player from every community in the territory join to form a Nunavut team.

He said the reason PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – better known to some as PubG – was chosen for the first tournament is because it’s popular among Nunavut youth and is relatively less intensive on internet needs, which is always a challenge in the North.

He explained that the challenge is latency, which means how fast data travels over the internet, not so much the consumption of data.

“In Nunavut, we’re getting anywhere between 400 to 700 latency, which is really high,” he said.

For top players, he hopes to secure funding to provide them with LTE modems so they have better accessibility and can compete without too many disadvantages against southern gamers.

“We hope to then be able to travel to live tournaments,” he said, once the Nunavut team is ready and Covid allows. “That’s the end goal.”

Though he’s been happy with how the tournaments and feedback have gone so far, Botelho-Resendes said there has been some criticism about the initiative.

“There are some community members that haven’t been happy with what we’re doing,” he said. “They feel that some of the youth should be out hunting and that sort of thing, and we’re not taking away from that. They’re already playing this, and some of them are really good.”

The world has changed, people can work remotely and youth should be able to as well, he added. These tournaments and the Nunavut team can help get southern companies’ eyes on the North and potentially create job opportunities for the youth.

“A lot of gamers end up going on to jobs like testing, IT support, security,” he said.

The goal is to mentor the youth and help them find new career opportunities.

“Initially, it’s about video games and getting them connected,” said Botelho-Resendes.

He even wants to eventually find funding to pay Nunavut youth to become professional gamers for a certain number of hours per week, as is seen with top gamers in the south.

“I’d like to see them get paid as they would a normal job,” he said.

That would further reinforce youths’ responsibility toward each other to be ready and prepared when game time with their team comes, he added.

For full details of the upcoming Kivalliq tournament and how to register, check out Nunavut Gaming Society on Facebook.