All about the BarCraft: an interview with Andreas Malessa

Getting together and watching massive events with friends is one of the highlights of being an esports fan, and if you’re not at the venue in person what better place to do so than at your local bar? We sat down and chatted with Andreas Malessa, who has been organizing such events in esports capital Cologne since 2012, about what it takes as well as his plans to open the city’s first gaming and esports bar.

ESL: Hi, Andreas! First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Andreas Malessa: I started organizing BarCrafts in Cologne in 2012 and expanded the concept to four more games over the last three years. Last year I finished my law studies at the Cologne University and decided to go full esports!

ESL: So what is a BarCraft?
Andreas Malessa: A BarCraft is a meeting of the local community in a pub to watch StarCraft tournaments live on several screens. The term is often used to describe similar events for other games, too. In Cologne, we gave all the games’ events their own unique names, for example Bar of Legends for League of Legends and Pubstomp for Dota 2.

ESL: What was the first BarCraft event you organized?
Andreas Malessa: Our first BarCraft was in July 2012 for a MLG Summer Arena.

ESL: In your opinion, what was the best event you’ve organized so far?
Andreas Malessa: Probably one of our gamescom parties. On some evenings we had over 200 people attending from at least eight different countries. It’s simply amazing to stand in a circle of five people from four countries who only met through their passion for a game and bond immediately.

ESL: What was the most epic moment that was celebrated at a BarCraft you ran and/or attended?
Andreas Malessa: Probably when the ESL crew brought over White-Ra and several other VIPs after the WCS Europe finals in Cologne. The pros celebrated a great tournament with fans and White-Ra got behind the counter and mixed a drink for us that he called “Kill Ultralisk” – there’s actually a video of it.

ESL: How about the funniest?
Andreas Malessa: In 2012, Kaelaris joined us at one of our BarCrafts. Back then, there was a drum kit in the bar. We knew he could play it so we kinda forced him to – without any preparation. Suddenly one visitor asked for some room and started breakdancing on the pub floor to Kaelaris’s beats. It was crazy, awesome and hilarious at the same time.

ESL: And what’s the most difficult thing – or things – about running a BarCraft?
Andreas Malessa: The work with the bar itself. You always have to adapt to their schedule, their computer/internet/video/lighting equipment and their way of doing things. If the bar has any issues, they become yours – and you mostly can’t change them. I have to say we’re really, really lucky with the Coellner, though (and I’ve heard stories from other organizers that underline that ;))!

ESL: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to run their first BarCraft event?
Andreas Malessa: Just do it! If it works out, you’ll have lots of fun, make tons of new friends and watch esports with others while having a beer. If it doesn’t work out, you at least tried!

ESL: What made you decide to try and open Cologne’s first gaming and esports bar?
Andreas Malessa: I finished my studies in 2014 and had to decide how to proceed with my life. Having taken a ‘real’ job would’ve made organizing these events much more complicated, if not impossible – and I love doing them. So I decided to go all-in and try to make a living out of it. Writing a business plan, bank talks and especially finding a fitting location just took much longer than I expected.

ESL: What made you decide to take the crowdfunding route?
Andreas Malessa: Because banks already have a big problem with funding gastronomy on its own and the esports/gaming aspect didn’t make it any easier.

ESL: Can you tell us some specifics about your plans?
Andreas Malessa: For the bar? PCs and consoles to play, tons of screens to watch games on and – most importantly – many, many great people that share your passion and love to talk about it!

ESL: If all goes to plan, when can we expect to see Cologne’s first gaming and esports bar open?
Andreas Malessa: Definitely not before October, but that mostly depends on how fast we can renovate the bar.

ESL: The big question: what’s your favorite game?
Andreas Malessa: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve played tons of StarCraft II and League of Legends, started playing Heroes of the Storm last year and regularly play Hearthstone. All of them have their own unique strengths. I’m literally unbeatable in Mario Kart 64, though, so maybe that one 😉

ESL: Thanks for your time, Andreas! Are there any shoutouts you’d like to make?
Andreas Malessa: A shoutout to all the people that visited any of my events in the last years and made them awesome, because they were what made them special! Not the games on the screens or the drinks in the glasses, but their passion and the atmosphere they created!

To find out more about BarCrafts as well as Andreas’s work towards starting Cologne’s first dedicated gaming and esports bar, keep an eye on @BarCraftKoeln as well as the project’s official website.

Images courtesy of Andreas Malessa.

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