That’s right, it’s that time of year again! We’re fast approaching the most exciting Esports event in the Scottish calendar: The Scottish Esports League. With it in our sights, it's the perfect time to sit back and reflect on the history of the League, the stories of dominance and dismay from its first three years, and take a wee sneak preview of what’s to come.
So let’s strap on our time travel boots and take a jump back to 2018, where it all began.
Scottish Esports League: Season 1
Scottish Esports League all started back in March 2018 with the aim of creating a central league for gamers to compete in Scotland and to prove who are the best among us. Hosting 9+ games in the League over a period of four months, it all climaxed at BigFest at the Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh in October. The qualified competitors faced off in person and the first national champions were crowned.
From their first year, the dominance of Team Penguin Overlords (aka TPO Esports) was made pretty clear in Counter-Strike Global Offensive, where after a slow start in the season they went on to storm the competition and started their legacy in Scottish Esports.
Clearly the key to success in the first year was all about having a name that related to the freezing arctic as another shining competitor that emerged was the incredible Iceman92 who utterly destroyed not only in MarioKart 7, but also ARMS. His Splatoon 2 team couldn’t quite carry on the carnage, however, falling just short of the grand finals. If only his teammates had gotten the memo and changed their names to something colder.
Looking back now in 2021, it’s crazy to think that in our first year running, Bigfest saw the first ever official Overwatch xbox competition in the world, Nintendo hosted the first in person preview of Smash Bros Ultimate in the UK We had 305 players & 104 teams across the country enter, and on the streaming platform mixer gained 2,500 followers and over 250,000+ views!
After the conclusion of the first epic year, we were ready to buckle down and get a little more serious.
Scottish Esports League: Season 2
Following the success of Season 1, we listened to our community and stripped things back to 4 core games, with the goal of creating a more focused tournament with higher production quality, and a better player and spectator experience overall. CSGO, Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege and Super Smash Bros Ultimate were selected as staff and fan favourites and things quickly got underway.
Season 2 also saw the addition of a few new Scottish orgs getting involved including Aura Esports, Paragon Esports, Team Shazoo, and attempting to take the crown from TPO; but could anyone rise to the occasion for the dethroning?
Hyper X Esports Truck at Resonate Total Gaming 2019 in Glasgow SEC
After 3 months of online competition, the summer finals were held at Resonate Total Gaming Festival 2019, in Glasgow at the SEC Centre with the competition taking place on the epic transforming esports arena that is the Hyper X Esports Truck between the 69 qualified players. We also partnered with BBC Sport Scotland to have the finals weekend hosted on their website, marking the first time esports had ever been shown on their site. A storm was brewing and Team Penguin Overlord’s icy fury was about to be felt once again.
SEL2: Counter-Strike Global Offensive
TPO shaking hands 4Dimensions after defeating them in the SEL2 CSGO finals
After an extended head to head semi-final between The Highland Fatties & 4Dimensions, which was so back and forth the event space had to chuck us out mid match and finish it the following day, TPO found their match against 4 Dimensions. Helmed by their former teammate cHARL1EB who’d helped them win the championship in season one, alongside SEL1 runner up Kalleh, the skipper and his mix team meant business, but were unable to break the penguins LAN streak of not losing a single map offline in a year straight. Losing their map pick Inferno 4-16, 4Dimensions looked shaky going into map two. Coming a lot closer, but not close enough, TPO stayed strong beating out their opponents 15-12 completing their clean sweep of the entire season, not losing a single match. The penguins promptly put their well earned metaphorical crowns back on, along with a cheeky £1250 prize in their pockets.
SEL2: Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Auty competing at the SEL2 finals
This year debuting Smash in SEL we decided to switch things up a bit and host 5 Qualifiers for Smash partnering with Abertay Smash Society, Battle Lounge Fife, Silver City Smash in Aberdeen, GATK in Dundee, TokyoToys Glasgow, and a last chance qualifier at Resonate Total Gaming. Each event qualified a single player through to the finals for a chance at being the Scottish National champ and £450.
The moment Ander lost to team Germany on day 1 of the European Smash Ball Team Cup 2019 Finals
While Ander fell short in Amsterdam with Team GB with The TP’s at the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate European Smash Ball Team Cup 2019 Finals, his experiences competing at that level paid off against Canadian exchange student Auty, a regular contender in the Edinburgh scene, winning 3-0 and taking home the £450 prize
SEL2: Rainbow Six Siege
Adding to their winning record, TPO expanded their winning streak
Continuing the reign of power, TPO’s Rainbow 6 Siege team showed a dominant season against the 3 competitors and eventually took on Anathema to open up the finals weekend. Despite a couple very close rounds, particularly on clubhouse, the penguins nerves stayed ice cold and coordinated concluding the series with a very clean 2-0 after winning 7-1 maps both rounds.
SEL2: Rocket League
Left to Right Chief, Calzafy, Freecant
TPO finally ran out of fuel with their Rocket League team not making it past the quarter finals. Meanwhile Team Shazoo picked up a new roster for their first foray into SEL, with previous winner of Esports Scotland’s Resonate 2018 event Freecant at the helm. Showing complete dominance over the infamous cone wearing Tagmata and his squad on Team CarryUs, Shazoo won with an incredibly clean 4-0 earning them £1000 and a national title.
Scottish Esports League: Season 3
With a fresh look, SEL once again chose to hone in more specifically and returned with CSGO, Rocket League and Rainbow 6. This time, however, the tournament aimed to broaden its horizons with a more welcoming UK- wide player limitation policy, aiming to take everything we’d learnt from the first 2 seasons and continuing ramping it up. Showcasing better gameplay and better production, we accompanied the live streams with weekly gameplay highlights and live interviews to help our audience connect with the competitors like never before. Add onto all of this the £3000 prize pool the stakes would be just as high as ever before.
We were truly blown away by the reach we ended up having across Britain with more UK-wide orgs entering than ever before. Structurally, the season was split into 2 segments, the Spring Split & Summer Split. Together these changes made things quickly heat up with the bigger talent pool creating stiffer competition from the northern orgs who’d grown accustomed to their Scottish dominance and rivalries.
Like the previous two years, it was our hope to hold the grand finals at a summer weekend LAN event in Scotland, but with the lockdown that started in March 2020, it was clear it’d simply be unsafe to hold a LAN. As a result, the first BigFest Online was conceived, entering us all into the cyber synthpop fueled world for 3 days of gaming glory.
The aim of bringing everyone together to get through the hardship as one was super important to all the staff and community and collectively, we were able to raise everyone spirits as well as raise some money for NHS charities together. We continue to thank each and every staff and community member that helped with this, we wouldn’t be able to do it without you!
SEL3: Counter Strike Global Offensive
In their debut performance, Ineffable Esports proved they meant business and their experienced Scottish roster, largely made up of SEL2’s 2nd place winners, 4 Dimensions, and members of SEL2’s 3rd place team The Highland Fatties, wanted to take revenge and make up for the previous 2 years shortcomings. They proved they meant business after not losing a single map across the 3 weeks leading to the Spring Winners finals, where they faced Leicester Away Days. A worthy opponent at last?... Not quite. GG EZ through to the finals they went.
Spurred on by the thought of their rivals making it through to the finals, TPO scraped past the spring loser’s bracket in a couple of nail-biting matches, beating Scottish org Aura 2-1 in the semis, and Leicester Away Days 2-1 in the finals to secure a place alongside their nemesis.
After TPO secured their place in the finals it was time to wait and find out who from the summer split each Scottish org would be facing off against.
The Summer split saw a roster full of new faces after the hype drummed up in the spring. Freshly formed Scottish org Team Divergent were an early fan favourite, but ultimately couldn’t compete against the battle-hardened UK/Polish mix: Pierozki, whose captain Fydeix had been eyeing up the competition since the October Cup, and the incredibly confident UK squad: Revenge, who had nothing but victory in their sights after their success and comradery built up from competing in other tournaments.
At BIGfest Online, after traversing the losers bracket, and already disheartened TPO faced further setbacks with a couple of their roster moving over to Valorant. They were unable to clutch out the semi-finals win against Revenge, who clearly proved their pure confidence had been very much justified, and after taking out the reigning champs prepped for the grand finals.
Ineffable also faced some roster uncertainty before the finals and likewise were unable to carry on their spring split momentum, being conquered by Pieroszki who’s chaotic freestyle play shown in the summer had clearly been honed in for BIGfest Online.
SEL3: Rainbow Six Siege
In season 2 of the Scottish Esports League, Rainbow 6 had a total of 4 teams enter. One year later in SEL3, 22 teams entered the spring split and 24 in the summer. Going from a total of 20 players total in the league to over 230 players; add onto that vast number of the players and the near-constant roster changes and org swaps, the narrative got pretty tricky to keep up with! We’ve come up with a few highlights for you to enjoy.
TPO got off to a bumpy start with their team losing their first match of the season. Not making it through to the finals in the spring, they recuperated and went for another run. To add insult to injury, near-constant drama surrounded the team and their rivalry against Lionscreed both within SEL3 and other leagues both in and out of the game seemed to really impact their performance. They sadly fell short once again in the summer and the conflict around the squad resulted in several players leaving the org in hopes of a fresh start.
In the spring there were a crazy number of possible combinations in the final week of who could make it to the finals giving each team a 1 in 6 chance of securing their place. All of the top 4 teams showed great performances leading to an incredibly close finish for Socially & Audacity, securing their places in the Grand Finals. Later on Socially had an Org swap and The Last Resort picked up their roster and spot at BIGfest Online.
Valhalla Vikings were a fan favourite but fell just short of their goal in both splits. LDN however made it through to the finals, but had a massive roster change, making them a lot weaker and inevitably fall short of the crown.
Lionscreed proved to be a dominant force in game during the summer split, but their strong gameplay was let down by an avalanche of player and org misconduct leading to a player ban and consequently the org quitting the league after finals had concluded. Once again the drama led to roster changes before the finals and the team struggled to find the same coherence with their altered roster, leaving the league with a disappointed 4th place.
After 3 days of streaming at BIGfest Online, during the middle of the Grand finals match between The Last Resort (TLR) and ___ the final event of the weekend, Ubisoft’s servers crashed forcing a restart the following day. With an extra day to catch their breath UK team TLR clutched out the W proving they were the strongest out of all 44 teams.
SEL3: Rocket League
Team Shazoo in moments before winning SEL2 (Freecant, Chief, Calzafy)
SEL3’s Rocket League was structured with 4 qualifying cups to secure places in the grand finals.
Following Team Shazoos dominance in SEL2, Freecant and Clazafy split from their teammate Chief to create the force that was Chiefs rat tail, with their previous teammate Chief joining Omnipotent that later became Endangered Esports and fell short at the last hurdle placing 4th at the grand finals.
The summer’s out of town talent lead to the First CSGO & Rainbow 6 finals in the Scottish Esports League not to feature a Scottish team, which left the local players and fans somewhat unsure of the future of the league and their place in it.
In the preparations and launch of Scottish Esports League season 3, we genuinely hadn’t expected the extent of excitement around the tournament we were able to eventually drum up. The Scottish Esports League had grown from a small community-run event with approx. 100 entrants, to 590+ competitors from across the United Kingdom & abroad, fighting for £3000 and a national crown and an audience of 10,000+ . This explosion of growth taught us a lot and showed that Esports Scotland truly does have what it takes to be viewed on the global esports stage.
So with the last three years behind us, and Covid-19 hopefully fading away, SEL4 is now fully underway! Our staff have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the tournament ready, taking everything we’ve learnt from past years and aiming to make it the best one yet with the greatest elements of each previous season combined.
So what can we expect in SEL4? Will we see the return of TPO’s dominance across CSGO? Will Chief beat out his former Shazoo teammates or will he continue to face off against them to reclaim his SEL2 title for himself and his new team? Who will be the first national champions for our new title Valorant and League of Legends?
So, in case this article wasn't enough of a three-year nostalgia hit and hype train to get on, put some more coal on the fire and head over to our youtube channel for old vids, highlights, & interviews.
If you enjoyed the article, please share it with a friend, or force your uninterested partner or relatives to read it. The more we spread the word the better events and content we can keep making. Thanks :)
About the Author
Dale R Murray | Head of Content
Joining the team as a video editor before BigFest 2018, Dale's worked his way through the ESS ranks with the single goal of making Scottish esports as incredible as possible. His passion for competition comes from his youth playing basketball, football & rugby as a kid & teen. Combined with a long-standing history of being generally terrible at video games, except for Mariokart, he now sticks to single-player games and instead competes vicariously through his favourite teams, and telling the stories of the Scottish scene.