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Mario Kart, Tacos And Beer: Wheeling Bar Creates Community Through Gaming

KartoHolixPhoto.jpg
Jermaine Lucious
/
Exit Zero Entertainment
Community members in the Northern Panhandle gather to compete in an esports competition at Tacoholix in Ohio County.

Esports are becoming increasingly popular across the nation with leagues and tournaments popping up more frequently, both online and in person. A bar in Wheeling recently hosted an event to see how a league playing a classic video game would fare.

It's pretty standard for a bar to have some form of entertainment on a Saturday night.

Usually that's a live band, or a DJ, but at Tacoholix in Wheeling they’re doing something a little different: a Mario Kart tournament with live commentary.

Yes, Mario Kart — the classic video game featuring characters from the beloved Nintendo video game universe racing go karts on tracks like Rainbow Road. But tonight, its being played in a bar with a small amount of prize money on the line.

Providing ‘Mindless Fun’

The idea started from a conversation Tacoholix owner David Comack had with one of his bartenders.

“Honestly we toyed around with doing like a video game tournament night, game nights, and actually my bartender Brett was like ‘yeah, you should do Mario Kart’ because its a game that sort of transcends generations," he said. "The buttons haven’t changed, I mean there are different tracks and different drivers, but somebody who started playing on Super Nintendo or any of the other systems could operate and at least be competitive."

Comack brought the idea to Jermaine Lucious of Exit Zero Entertainment, an events promoter in Wheeling that specializes in stand-up comedy.

Lucious jumped on it immediately and agreed to co-sponsor the event.

“Adults today are always looking for something to bring them back to their childhood," Lucious said. "Mindless fun is something that’s appealing to everyone, and this was a time for everyone to come out and have a good time without worrying about all of the issues happening outside of the bar."

The Rise of Metal Mario

The event started with 16 competitors playing in groups of four.

The two racers with the most points at the end of each set of five races advanced onto the next round.

Participants ranged from experienced gamers all the way to absolute beginners.

One competitor proved himself early on, and even earned a nickname because of the character he chose to play as.

“Well Chris Lyons was Metal Mario, and everyone was convinced that he was going to win because he won by like half a track in the first race,” Comack observed.

Lyons may have convinced everyone watching that he had a shot, but that didn’t stop him from being a little antsy.

After standing for the entirety of the tournament, he decided to sit down for his last race.

“It’s because I'm nervous. The less I have to concentrate on, like standing, is better. Nothing’s for certain in this game,” Lyons nervously said.

Lyons had good reason to be worried. In his final cluster he only scored first place once, which was unusual for him.

Sitting down ended up working, and Lyons won the first three races, thus securing his tournament victory.

“I can finally breathe," he said. "They were all really good."

Creating New Experiences

Only 16 people could sign up to participate, but around the same amount of people came just to watch.

The commentators kept the crowd entertained, and hearkened back to Exit Zero’s stand-up comedy roots, but Comack believes the event itself commanded a certain amount of attention on its own.

“We had an entire bar watching video games as if it was a sporting event," he said. "To me it's not always necessarily about what you’re doing, what kind of event, what kind of entertainment you’re providing it’s that engagement. It’s getting people excited about what’s going on at the present moment."

The event's success has led to the formation of the TASKAR Mario Kart league at Tacoholix. They currently plan on having similar events throughout the month of March.

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