The third edition of LEVEL UP - The Gaming Festival attracted over 9,000 gamers, eSports enthusiasts, cosplayers and onlookers to the Salzburg Exhibition Center. This solidifies the Salzburg event's status as Austria's largest gaming festival.

People feel comfortable in community and no matter how much we differ, we have more in common than we think. This fact became clear at the LEVEL UP gaming festival. Gamers still have the cliché of being lazy loners. But the diversity of the visitors painted a different picture. eSports players are the superstars of a scene that is on the verge of redefining the entertainment industry. Streamers and content creators are creating shows and video formats that are consumed by millions. Video game enthusiasts and families explore digital worlds on screen or in VR. 

LEVEL UP offers something for everyone and it is precisely this formula that makes the air crackle, because enthusiasm is contagious. 

At the national championship of the E-Sport School League a team of the HTL Hallein about the victory on the Mainstage © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

eSports as the spearhead of the development of gaming

eSports is a discipline in which competitive video games are played against each other. Tournament formats are similar to those of traditional sports and offer the same opportunities for sponsors and partners. As a result, eSports is emerging as a popular, multi-billion dollar industry that offers tremendous opportunities for players, organizers, and promoters.

With ICARACE, you control with your whole body. This is not only fun, but also keeps you fit. © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

In terms of eSports, LEVEL UP 2023 offered multiple top-class tournaments. The first event was the LEVEL UP ICARACE World Championships. In ICARACE, pilots fly through a virtual course. The pilots use a special "controller", the use of which is an intense full-body workout. Dominik Ferenc beat five-time world champion Thomas Ebner to claim the 2023 world championship title.

The second qualifying tournament of Red Bull For The Win also offered exciting eSports action. In addition to Salzburg's Johannes Findling (LOL) and Niklas Gell (CS:GO), Pascal Neumann from Munich (RL) qualified for the final on July 15 in Vienna. Here they will compete as a team against real pros from the scene and play for a prize money of 4.500 Euro. The free registration for the last qualifier on 8.7. in Vienna is still possible.

At Red Bull For The Win, qualified amateur players can compete with the pros © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

In the final of Morekats Mayhem #4, Rocket League was played as usual. Vulkan Esport beat the favorite PSG Tundra in a Gentlemen Reverse Sweep. That's what you call a win after trailing 3:1 in a "Best of 7" round, which would be won by four points.

In the Salzburg state championship of the ESSL, short for E-Sport School League, Twisted Fates defended their state championship title against Twisted Feet. The ESSL shone with a glossy production, showing that the professionalization of the gaming scene is in full swing. Dorian Dobler, founder and organizer of the ESSL: "In every other sport there has been a student league for a long time - and now we have one for eSports, too."

The tournament program concluded with the LEVEL UP Smashfest, in which Sandro claimed victory for his team Austrian Force in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The audience celebrated each round with thunderous applause and spurred the players on to ever more virtuoso maneuvers.

Entertainment for the whole family

Hundreds of families with children also found their way to the festival and the numerous exhibitors in the Gaming Zone and Retro Area not only made children's eyes light up. Video games for every taste offered suitable entertainment for all ages and preferences.

In the Free2Play Area by Emmi Caffé Latte you could play with new or old friends. In the Indie Games Area presented by FH Salzburg, game connoisseurs searched for the most innovative new titles from independent game developers. At the Indie Stage powered by Bonusworld these developers presented their concepts and ideas.

Families with children got their money's worth with the KTM mini bikes, among other things © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

While the kiddies tended to play with Super Mario Kart, KTM mini-bikes or an original Carrera racetrack, mom and dad could relive the games from their youth on real machines in the Retro Area. Besides video games, there were several pinball machines, old computers and consoles. 

Numerous companies used the fair for staff acquisition and were looking for new colleagues in the fields of IT or software development. In addition to the BRZ, which is responsible for solutions such as FinanzOnline, the W&H Dentalwerk, Salzburg AG, Commend, the Austrian Armed Forces and the Salzburg Police, among others, were on site. They all presented themselves as attractive employers with exciting tasks and stable prospects for the future.

The course for the drone race at LEVEL UP 2023 © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

And if the kids got stuck at one station for too long, the Nespresso Roadshow provided delicious coffees in countless classic and exotic flavors. It was a great way to chat casually or even philosophize about world events. So it didn't really matter if dad spent a little longer exploring his hidden piloting skills at the Aircrasher DCS Messecup, a high-speed drone race.

Cosplayers, tabletop, card and board games

Some visitors do not cling behind screens, but prefer to embody the heroes and anti-heroes of video games, movies or anime in real life. The discipline is called cosplay and combines the tailoring of costumes and the representation of the character. Over 100 cosplayers visited LEVEL UP and delighted visitors, the other artists and the jury of the Cosplay Contest. 

At the cosplayers, visitors could give their eyes a break from the screens and admire beautiful costumes. © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

Some of the cosplayers or artists from related disciplines offered their goods and services. Strolling through their Artist Alley was like walking through an art market.

In the back of the hall, the tabletop strategists waged friendly battles against each other. Warhammer 40k and Star Wars Legion dominated the picture, interspersed with rare titles like Necromunda or Middle Earth.

One of many masterful terrain pieces in the Tabletop Area. © LEVEL UP / Lina Jakobi

Right next door, collectible card game lovers played Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon or traded rare cards. One jump further, one could try out traditional board games at the Game for Life association and perhaps find the next game for the family evening.

Pro gamers, eSports enthusiasts, families, cosplayers, drone pilots, game developers, trading card lovers, tabletop commanders, teams, orgs and event organizers. Different people, different lifestyles. But they all meet at LEVEL UP, celebrate common passions, cheer on heroes together and enjoy life. That's how LEVEL UP has been connecting different communities for three years, in ever-changing ways. The organizers plan to do the same next year. Christian Wenninger, Head of Exhibitions at Messezentrum, says: "We see a steady growth of the festival and the feedback from visitors and partners is great. Therefore, LEVEL UP will come again in 2024."