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Joseph “Phozzo” Eisenmann was nervous on the drive from his team house to the strip in Las Vegas. He was headed for the first in-person Rainbow Six Pro League match since lockdown orders began last year.
“There were a few nerves before the game,” he said. “But I was more excited than anything else.”
Phozzo and the rest of his team at Beastcoast had taken Tempo Storm’s spot in the Rainbow Six Pro League alongside eight other teams. The five teammates will live in a bubble for the next year, staying in a team house located 10 minutes from the strip. The empty HyperX Arena at the Luxor hotel will house all games.
Playing out of the Rainbow Six Pro League Bubble
Around 11:30 a.m. local time, a shuttle bus pulled up in front of the house. This was hours before Beastcoast was supposed to play against TSM. Phozzo and his squad were ferried to an employee entrance around the back end of the hotel where tournament organizers were waiting.
They were then ushered to the HyperX Arena within the hotel, but they didn’t get to see any other part of the casino. They played on stage in the arena, but no fans or unnecessary personnel were there.
“It was a massive arena,” Phozzo said of the space that had previously been a nightclub. “But it was completely empty. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The emptiness didn’t deter the pro league’s freshest faces as they beat TSM 7-3 in a quick and dominant fashion. Beastcoast wanted to prove they weren’t a “ninth place team” after only recently joining the nine team league.
“They probably didn’t expect us to play like that,” Phozzo said. “Our aggression really caught them off guard, but we just played like we normally do.”
Outside of the missing fans and fanfare, everything felt routine for Phozzo as he played in the first LAN of his career. Even common technical issues came up and were resolved as usual. For example, at first, Phozzo had trouble hearing audio through his headphones.
Beastcoast’s game was scheduled for 2 p.m., and Phozzo and his squad were out and headed home a little more than an hour later. Teams came in on a staggered schedule in order to avoid contact as much as possible.
“They had it down to a T,” he said. “They picked us up, dropped us off, we did our business and then we just left.”
Beastcoast were the shuttled back to the team house. There, they enjoyed a steak dinner to honor their victory. Phozzo got his medium-rare.
The first step towards esports normalcy
While the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League isn’t playing out quite like it would have before the COVID-19 pandemic, living in a bubble has made it possible to continue competing, since latency problems made online play almost impossible with Ubisoft’s servers. Phozzo said he and the rest of his team feel lucky to have the opportunity to play in person again so soon, though. He had been looking forward to opening day since he first heard he could relocate to Las Vegas in December.
“It felt like a big day,” he said. “I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I felt normal. It felt right. It just felt like another match we had to play in. Everything just felt perfect.”
Beastcoast has a bye this week, but the squad will head back through that employee entrance at the Luxor to face off against DarkZero Esports on April 6. Until then it’s “practice, practice and more practice.”