We went to DreamHack Hannover and can confidently say that big gaming events in Germany are back and better than ever.
Please allow me to be self-indulgent with this one on a matter that's close to my heart. As someone who came up in the various gaming and nerd-culture scenes in and around Hannover, Germany it made me very happy to see those scenes alive and thriving under the banner of an official DreamHack event.
If you think of gaming events in Germany, the one that'll always come to mind is Gamescom. Here is where you'll find the latest announcements in games and the event was always the middle child between the now defunct E3 which is now the Summer Games Fest I guess (thank you, Geoff), and Tokyo Gameshow which focuses more on the eastern market.
But what about the gaming events outside of that? Germany is still a titan in esports but there is a lack of open tournaments and grassroots events that could give smaller players and teams a stage to show what they're really about.
What better place than Hannover to reignite those passions once again? After all Hannover's now defunct CEBIT, formally the largest computer expo in the world, was once a prime destination for competitors from around the world to show off their games and talent. Enter DreamHack Hannover 2023.
The DreamHack Hannover 2023 Experience
From the 14th to the 17th of December 2023 DreamHack Hannover opened its doors to over 24.000 gaming enthusiasts, not bad numbers for an event that is only in the second year of its lifespan. Programming this year featured the finals of the (for now) final German ESL Counter-Strike championship as well as the first official Escape from Tarkov Arena Invitational tournament.
The main attraction however was the LAN party in the back which featured 11 open tournaments played by almost 1000 attendees across all of them with their respective finals being played out on the main stage.
Visiting the event was a bewildering experience for me, being very out of tune with German gaming culture I can only imagine that is what it must've been like for my parents all those years ago.
What surprised me and made me very happy was the amount of space dedicated to artists selling their wares and independent local tabletop creators. And that was the theme I sensed around DreamHack Hannover, there was an effort to represent local businesses, talent, and creators alongside Escape from Tarkov, big Esport, and TCGs.
If there was one complaint I would levy against the event, it's that if you're there to just stalk the halls and catch some of the live programming here and there there isn't much to do outside of it. Workshops for Cosplayers and Artists, an effort to get non-TTRPG folk into the hobby, or just a space to sit around and hang out with people.
A Look Behind the Scenes and Ahead
On Sunday I also got to sit down and chat with German esports presenter and co-organizer Matthias ‘Knochen' Remmert about the vision of the event and its imminent future. Knochen is a veteran of the scene and just like me has a fondness for Hannover, dating back to those halcyon CEBIT days.
When I asked him about the vision for the event, he told me that there was simply nothing like DreamHack in Germany. Sure there are conventions and LANs and esports but rarely anything operating on that scale under the banner of an international festival. The DreamHack brand offered organizer Freaks4U an opportunity to bring all their partners together for an event, unlike anything Germany has ever seen on that scale.
In the wake of the German games industry having a really bad year, I also asked if they'd consider letting German studios show off their games. Knochen told me that if they were to do it, they would be open to anyone who'd want to be part of their event, they would love to focus on the Indies instead of only platforming big titles that'd draw all the attention.
Another question that was close to my heart was if they'd consider running open tournaments for Fighting Games such as Tekken, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, and so on. He seemed very excited about the prospect of running proper FGC events at their venue and even asked me if knew anyone who'd want to organize such a thing. So for my sake, fellow German Fighting Game enthusiasts, please make it happen.
Lastly, I asked about their aspirations for next year and Knochen confessed that they were very happy with how stacked the event was this year and they hope to bring younger audiences into the venue next time.
Due to German Law, the event was off-limits to anyone under the age of 16 due to some of the titles being played on the big stage. But he told me that would love to create a space where parents and their children could explore these hobbies together and educate each other on them.
Those are pretty amazing goals to have and I'm looking forward to checking in with them next year to see the next step in realizing that vision.
And that's everything we got on my DreamHack Hannover adventures. For more on the weekend, check out our impressions of Tarkov Arena's Esport Debut as well as what we learned from our interview with Tarkov boss Nikita about the future of Escape from Tarkov.