You may think that Call of Duty’s heyday is well and truly in the past – that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Call of Duty World League (CWL) returned to London this past weekend for the first time since 2014.
Hosted by Gfinity at the Copper Box Arena – the best Call of Duty teams from around the world gathered to compete for the chance to lift the trophy and call themselves CWL London champions.
Having attended a handful of esports events, I had come to expect a certain ‘lacklustre’ atmosphere from the crowd.
The odd cheer and half-hearted whoop when a player or team you support makes a good play along with the occasional jeer when the chosen antagonist for the event made a good move.
Nothing prepared me, or more notably the Americans, for the reaction they got from the British fans.
Football chants were commonplace, with jeering, whooping and booing a constant background noise to the competitive Call of Duty taking place on stage.
The atmosphere was electric with many of the hosts, players and fans saying it had been one of the best CWL events in the esport’s history.
The man behind keeping the audience hyped (even through the hour-long internet blackout) was Gfinity’s Global Head of Partnerships, Martin Wyatt, an ex stand-up comedian who put his skills to good use during the event.
Wyatt has been with Gfinity since it began back in 2013.
“I joined just before the first event in 2013, the imaginatively titled G1,” Wyatt told me backstage at the Copper Box Arena.
“I have never known six-and-a-half years to go so quickly. We are in an amazing industry! What’s not to love?
“I used to do stand up comedy, I couldn’t have been that good I guess otherwise I would still be doing it now, but it means I’m certainly not shy. I’m here to keep the crowd excited.”
The vast majority of major Call of Duty tournaments take place in North America – with such a huge fan base across Europe, Wyatt would have liked to have seen them return to London sooner.
Following the reception to the event this time around, there’s no doubt that the CWL will return to London next year.
“The last time we had Call of Duty in London was here at the Copper Box Arena in 2014,” Wyatt said.
“The goal was, if ever we were given the opportunity to bring it back to London, this was going to be the right kind of home for it, because of the great memories, and the fact the venue is capable of generating acoustically the quality we were looking for.
“We knew we would blow the roof off the place.”
The main stage crowd could be heard throughout the whole arena with the stands packed even at the qualifying rounds on the first day!
“Part of my role this weekend is to get everyone hyped up, it’s going to be quite easy for me,” Wyatt explained.
“I’m just going to raise my hand and everyone’s going to go mental.”
Wyatt’s skills were put to the test during a brief internet blackout across the arena which interrupted the scheduled games – the crowd quickly got behind a push-up competition, a dance-off and an impromptu costume competition hosted by Martin himself…
Wyatt has high hopes for the future of esports and expects to see Gfinity leading the European movement well into the future. With games like Fortnite, PUBG and FIFA propelling esports into the mainstream it’s only a matter of time before we see events similar to CWL London taking place every weekend.
“There are more games to play, more people are playing them in different ways and more people are playing competitively!” Wyatt exclaimed.
“Game developers have now fully embraced esports as part of the strategy for how their games are developed.
“I think to try and put your money on one particular game to be the shining light would be disrespectful to the other games, all of which are amazing in their own light.
“If there could be a major esports tournament every weekend in the UK that would be awesome. I genuinely believe that the UK and London as a city are global destinations for esports and we will only see more things like this happen in the future.”
If you have played Call of Duty in the past, love great atmospheres and good competition, keep an eye out for when the CWL will be coming back to London and get some tickets!
If you want to find out more about what Gfinity are doing and the events you can attend click here!