If you’re a gamer or an eSports fan and you happen to be in Paris, Meltdown is the place to be!
After creating BarCraft Europe and organizing their first successful BarCraft event, Sophia “Foxy” Metz, a former publicist, and Yann-Cédric “Ashiara” Mainguy, a former community manager, decided to level up. They opened Meltdown, one of the world’s first permanent BarCrafts, in the heart of Paris in May 2012. We sat down with them to talk about Meltdown, BarCrafts, and of course StarCraft II.
First of all, could you tell us where the name of the bar came from?
Sophia: We knew we wanted something that reminded us of a post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk world – a recurrent theme in video games. We were brainstorming one day and a friend of ours suggested Meltdown, a name we liked immediately.
Yann: Meltdown is the very specific moment where the atomic nucleus melts in a nuclear reaction. And that really worked with what we wanted for the bar: a shelter in a post-apocalyptic world.
Sophia: A place where resistance fighters would get together and survive. A sort of hideaway; an underground place. And it’s even the name of a Brood War map. So it really had it all.
Do you play StarCraft II? If so, what league are you in?
Sophia: I play zerg and I’m in the Diamond league.
Yann: I play zerg too and I’m Gold.
Sophia: All the people who work here are gamers. It’s mandatory, as our customers are as well. They come here to talk about their passion for gaming, so we want to be able to discuss games with them. We’re gamers first and then bartenders or waiters second.
Who generally comes to Meltdown?
Y: People of a wide variety of ages, but all with a passion for video games in general and more specifically eSports. We hardly have any non-gamers, and if we do it’s often because they came with gamer friends.
S: And we also have a lot of girls, which proves that there is a female eSports scene. The Madmoizergs – a French female-only eSports team – come here often.
But you can come to Meltdown if you’re not a gamer, right?
Y: Of course. People who come find the place very friendly, and you don’t always have to watch what’s on the screen. Moreover, gamers and geeks can talk about something other than games. So you don’t have to be a video game expert to come here and have a good time.
S: People often associate geeks with people lacking social skills. Meltdown is a place where you can meet a lot of people from many different backgrounds, and where you can make friends.
Y: You can come here alone and you’re pretty sure to leave with new friends.
Tell us more about your StarCraft II “special nights”?
S: Every Friday we organize a StarCraft II tournament. And although we do organize other events with other games, our main focus is StarCraft II. We once organized a “Bring your Noob” night, where StarCraft II players came with friends who didn’t know the game at all.
Y: Every week, there’s at least one StarCraft II tournament here. We have coaching nights as well, with French pro gamers and shoutcasters.
Do you get a lot of pro gamers coming in?
Y: Almost every day. The top French players often come to relax, play, and have a good time.
S: We don’t invite these players; they show up because they want to. We even had some Korean players here the evening before the Iron Squid tournament. We had no clue they would show up.
Who are the most famous players to visit Meltdown?
S: Most of them are French. Stephano, the 2012 StarCraft II WCS European champion, comes by every time he’s in Paris.
Y: MoMaN did one of our coaching nights. AureS is often here, and we were happy to have MMA, Symbol, and NesTea, along with other Korean players.
S: A lot of foreign players, not necessarily pro, have now heard of us, and Meltdown has become the place to be when in Paris. We wanted to become a reference for eSports fans and hardcore gamers around the world, and it seems that we’ve won our bet.
Which StarCraft II tournaments do you stream and how do you choose them?
Y: We stream all the major events: the IEM, the MLG, the WCS, the DreamHack Summer, the HomeStory Cup, and so on. We decide on which one to show according to the importance of the event, but we also have to consider our opening hours and the different time zones. Some nights we can show several tournaments, as when one finishes in Europe another one begins in the States.
S: Who’s playing is another important factor. But even when there aren’t any tournaments, we broadcast famous players’ streams. It’s actually what you get to see the most on our screens.
What do you think of the StarCraft II World Championship Series?
S: We didn’t expect that it would attract so many people. In the UK for example, the reach was surprisingly amazing, and it really put this country on the eSports map. It also allowed new talents to emerge.
Y: It’s been really interesting so far. The players showed a lot of skills even in France, where Stephano is way above everybody else. We watched a lot of great games. It also gave a lot of players the opportunity to prove their true potential. In France, and I assume elsewhere, it helped define a new hierarchy in StarCraft II. We now know who the best players are in each country, and they’re not necessarily the most famous ones.
Speaking of the best, how does it feel to know that the best player in Europe is also French?
S: It’s great to finally be an important country in eSports. For a long time, France was behind, but now with major tournaments like the Iron Squid, a player like Stephano, and an eSports bar, we have a much better presence on the international scene.
Y: I’m really proud to see that a French player can reach that level, even though we knew all along that he had what it takes to win the WCS Europe Finals. I’d put some money on Stephano. But it could very well be a Korean player, because they’re all very good.
Do you think Stephano has the chance to win the world title?
Y: I’d put some money on Stephano. But it could very well be a Korean player, because they’re all very good.
S: I’ll support Stephano all the way. And most people here will too.
Since Meltdown is described as a permanent BarCraft, how would you define a BarCraft?
Y: An event in a bar where people gather to watch a StarCraft II tournament, the same way you would go to a bar to watch a major sports event. The major StarCraft II tournaments can really attract a lot of people. In the States, some BarCraft organizers have managed to gather up to nearly a thousand people for a single event. We’re not there yet in Europe, but the phenomenon is expanding. However, Meltdown is slightly different.
S: When we created Meltdown, we defined ourselves as a permanent BarCraft. People go to BarCrafts across the world because it’s often a unique occasion to watch streams in a bar. We don’t have this issue here, as we stream all the time and as much as we can.
Y: But this is very specific to Paris, as we’re the only place to do this. Elsewhere, BarCrafts are still huge.
Do you think the BarCraft phenomenon will further expand?
S: eSports and video games are becoming more and more accessible and mainstream. People don’t “hide” the fact that they play video games anymore. Even if our bar offers video games all week long, which helps to normalize gaming, our aim isn’t necessarily to become mainstream. Meltdown is a place for gaming connoisseurs, with its code and its stars, as with any sports bar.
Y: We’re confident that, in time, the BarCraft phenomenon will expand. And we’ve asked ourselves how this was going to happen. We feel that we’ll see more and more places like Meltdown; not just bars that are limited to a single event every now and then.
Do you work with other BarCraft organizers?
S: We’re in contact with the representatives of German BarCrafts. They’re very enthusiastic and highly motivated. They really want to invest in their community and follow our lead. BarCraft Berlin created barcraft-connect, which is the European BarCraft network. It’s a place where all the BarCraft “actors” meet, so to speak. We share news, ideas, schedules, events, and so on. It also helps to find sponsors and partners for specific events.
Y: We’ve been in contact with other BarCrafts since our first event. And now we’ve brought BarCraft to the next level. We’ve made it “professional,” so a lot of people are contacting us to ask for advice because they want to do the same.
What’s your relationship with Blizzard?
S: Blizzard Entertainment’s European HQ is located close to Paris and some of their employees pay us a visit from time to time to relax and enjoy a game of StarCraft II. In addition, we also use their image on a daily basis, since we stream a lot of StarCraft II games and tournaments. As such, Blizzard has been following the Meltdown project since its inception and gave us the support we needed to make it a reality. Now that we’re fully operational, Blizzard’s response has been very positive, which further emphasizes the support they give to their community of players in Paris.
Y: Blizzard encourages and fosters initiatives that bring gamers together, such as BarCrafts. All the Blizzard employees we’ve met at the Meltdown for such BarCraft events are passionate gamers who have told us how much they enjoy attending BarCraft events.
What’s it been like since you opened Meltdown a few months ago?
S: Even if it’s been a lot of work, and still is, we’re delighted. We got a lot of very positive feedback, specifically from the gaming and eSports community. It gave us the will to work even harder because we really wanted to bring something more to the community, and it seems that we did. Our Facebook page has reached over 3,000 fans, which is huge for a small bar like Meltdown. So we’re surprised and thrilled.
What are your plans for the future?
S: We’re not trying to extend this place, because even if it’s small, we like it because it’s cozy and warm. We want to open similar places in Berlin and London, and elsewhere. It may seem like it’s all going very fast, but the demand from the community all over Europe is huge. And we want love to deliver.
Y: It really feels like it’s something we have to do. We owe it to the community and to ourselves. We already brought BarCraft to the next level when we opened this place, and we’re looking forward to the next steps outside of France.