The National Esport Professional Association announces a charity cup to raise awareness and fundraise for Special Olympics. Introducing Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena, LAN’s sporting event will be held at the Redbird Club at Busch Stadium in St. Louis from March 18-20, 2022 and will continue to pave the way for competitive VR professional sports and raise awareness of the inclusion of the VR platform for VR athletes.
With the introduction of headphones like Oculus Quest 2, VR games have become increasingly popular for fun and exercise. Furthermore, many games are particularly suited to competitive electronic sports and the growth potential in this area of the industry is enormous.
Virtual reality allows a user to be immersed in a game or environment with a sense of presence that creates the feeling that you are actually in an arena, on a field, etc. Sports traditionally require teamwork, problem solving skills, strategic thinking, leadership, etc., but in addition to these skills, as VR requires physicality to move, crouch, jump, throw, etc., there is a component athletic that is not present in traditional sports.
“The introduction of virtual reality and the associated athleticism required to play many games has really established the ‘sport’ part of e-sports,” said Tony Cartwright, founder and CEO of the National Esport Professional Association (NEPA). “Since the early 1970s, electronic sports have been associated with competitive gaming, but with gaming controllers and keyboards the term ‘sport’ seemed out of place. When VR was released, there were many more physical requirements to play competitively, giving rise to the phrase ‘VR sport’. ”
A former Fighter Weapons School, F-15C graduate, who retired from the United States Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel / Command Pilot in 2016, Cartwright founded NEPA, LLC in April 2021. He then began recruiting professionals familiar with the electronic sports and virtual reality. as well as skilled players of the popular virtual reality game Echo Arena, to build the league.
“NEPA was created to develop VR sports in a traditional professional organization,” explains Cartwright. “Where many sports professionals are determined to win a league or tournament, NEPA is designed to represent the pool of VR sports athletes who train and play at an elite level.”
Echo Arena was the first title selected because it is actually the first VR game in the digital medium that is similar to traditional team sports. Launched in June 2017 by Ready At Dawn, a game studio that was later bought by Facebook, Echo Arena has been a flagship in the realm of multiplayer VR gaming.
“Echo Arena it requires team strategy, physicality, communication and teamwork to succeed. What’s most interesting about the game is that much like traditional team sports,” says Cartwright, “the only way to improve and compete at a higher level is through practice, both individually and as a team.”
Special Olympics Collaboration
According to Cartwright, Special Olympics was a natural partner for NEPA’s charitable efforts. Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, providing them with opportunities to compete at an elite level.
In the world of VR, there are no limitations imposed on athletes and the surrounding environments level the playing field so that anyone with a desire to compete can do so. Since many VR games, including Echo Arena, can be played seated at basically the same level as a standing player, which creates an accessibility not normally available in traditional sports.
Mac Dougan, Assistant Director of Digital Initiatives for Special Olympics Illinois, points out that since the inception of the Special Olympics eSports program, they have made a conscious effort to make video games more inclusive and the collaboration with NEPA supports this concept through of VR games.
“Whether it’s for individuals with intellectual disabilities, physical or no disability – the game should and should be for everyone,” says Dougan. “VR… is extremely vital to moving forward with inclusion.”
Like most people in society today, Special Olympics athletes would benefit from the physicality required in VR games. Since Special Olympics encourages physical activity and healthy lifestyles, the idea of VR games is very attractive to the organization for the potential to improve the overall well-being of its athletes.
“The opportunities are endless for Special Olympics and VR games,” says Dougan. “The idea of being an active participant in the games we are playing is huge.”
He is also looking forward to seeing Special Olympics athletes have access to headphones so they can experience other games, such as tennis or baseball, through the lens of an VR headset.
“Not every athlete will have access to a tennis court or be able to travel constantly to practice, but VR can bring that experience straight to your living room. This is just amazing. ”
LAN charity event
The first annual NEPA Charity Cup will feature a fully professional tournament for NEPA’s Echo Arena professional teams, as well as open brackets for all teams wishing to enter. Individual players can also register and be placed on a team.
- March 18-20, 2022
- Redbird Club at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri
- Registration fee for one player: $50
- Prizes will be awarded to the finalists and semi-finalists in each bracket.
Register for tickets to 1st Annual NEPA Charity Cup.
If you are interested in sponsoring NEPA or the charity cup, please contact the NEPA website.
We will continue to post regular updates on VR Fitness Insider and, as always, we encourage you to get involved in the community as well.
Check out the NEPA team’s professional gaming streams on the VR Sports Network (VRSN).