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DreamHack Melbourne 2023 Makes A Triumphant Return

Leaner, meaner, keener

It feels like it was only a few months back that we were here at Rod Laver Arena, drowning in free Monster and getting pumped up watching the CS:GO Challengers. In actual fact, it has been about seven months since the Swedish-born mega-LAN cross esports extravaganza made its debut down under. Our boy on the beat was able to sneak a couple of hours in on the Friday and Saturday afternoons, with the former happily cleansing any grossly outdated preconceived hygiene concerns with a thorough spot of dense Melbourne showers.

What is most noticeable between DreamHack’s 2023 showing and the previous year’s debut is both the leaner arena spectacles, as well as a more front-and-centre approach to all the event’s sideshows. No longer are the fighting games buried away at the bottom of a backdoor arena. They now sit along densely seated rows within the front doors of the expo hall. There is no low-key, underutilised stage set aside for Halo championships. In fact, there is no Halo at all. Whilst I did miss it faintly, replacing this competition with the DJ booth slash arena panel was a more inviting use of the space. Couple that with the BYOC LAN tucked in behind the stage, I was pleased to see that the heart of DreamHack’s origins wasn’t hidden away in another building.

My happy place, finally here this year

The expo hall is where this esports-ignorant scrub liked to hang out for the majority of my time on the ground. I was delighted to see that they have comfortably crammed even more into this space and that these additions make sense! A free-play tabletop area that was getting plenty of love and filled with titles appropriate for a casual weekend audience. Catan, Carcassonne, and Azul, all suitable for a tidy intermission between the CS:GO and League of Legends championships

Ever the eager beaver, I surprised myself to discover that the League LCOs were only a single-day event consigned to the Saturday. I was trying to open locked doors to the relevant arena, expecting to find a bustling crowd within on Friday. No such luck, CS:GO was the only big event occupying an arena. However, it was mad watching the Chinese teams kick arse and get the crowd riled up with that ever-savoury ELS energy that DreamHack takes with it around the globe.

On another note for CS:GO, colour me surprised to discover that the narrow laneways and discreet ramps of dust_2 have been replaced with the relatively fresh Anubis map. Despite being around for a couple of years already, seeing it played in this format was a thrill, with so many sharp corner shootouts and trepidatious vertical parapets leading to plenty of nervous clutch moments to get the crowd razzed up.

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Some deep-cut JoJo’s costumes made an appearance

The last words of praise I want to offer this seemingly successful second outfit for ESL and DreamHack’s wonder team down under is with regards to the artist alley and arcade machines. In 2023, patrons were treated to a wonderful hallway of independent artists hawking their loving wares of posters, commissions, trinkets and more. This tidy alley was tucked around a good quarter of the outer circumference of the Rod Laver Arena hall, remaining easily navigable and giving all these artists an equal share of the visible real estate.

Also dotted craftily around the hallways were the arcade machines, with everything from Time Crisis, DaytonaDDR and my personal favourite, the pinball machines. This time around, the pinball machines were hidden on another floor, and were set to freeplay mode! Who carried coins nowadays?!

Sincerely, there has been a tremendous logistical effort accomplished here to have this event running so smoothly, safely, and effectively. Sadly I must say I did have a negative run-in with a security guard who clearly wished he was a cop in another life, shouting at idle patrons so as to look authoritative. That aside, staff, security, commentators, and audience all pulled together to make this an event I hope to see become a staple of the Melbourne event scene. Congrats folks!

Sus Sus Solution 3

Oh, and there was also playable Counter-Strike 2. Why is this important? It is one of the first times the general public has been able to freely go hands-on with the upcoming title. Why you might not care? I saw people playing this next to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and could not tell the difference between the two. I’m no CS:GO in-the-know fella, but I’ve played a few hundred hours and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Thrilled for those who were eager, though!

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Written By Nathan Hennessy

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