Part of what makes a local gaming scene great isn’t just the games played or tournaments held, but the players themselves and how they communicate and interact with each other. This is a principle that Hazem “Haz” Ibrahim and Team Hazmat has taken to heart and continued to expand on over the years they have been active in Arizona.
Ibrahim founded his team initially as a way to strengthen the gaming community ties with each other. After leading a B-boy crew in Egypt for over 10 years and moving to Arizona only three years ago, Ibrahim wanted to do something different to “fill the void” from captaining a team for so long.
“My friends got me into gaming,” explained Ibrahim in a Tuesday interview. “And after that I was like ’Wow! Okay, this is pretty cool, I like this.’”
Ibrahim didn’t stop at merely competing, but instead wanted to build up the Arizona gaming community. He proposed starting up a live stream of local competition to shine the spotlight on Arizona players and the scene. Ibrahim invested in purchasing capture setups and equipment to broadcast a live stream, and in so doing officially created Team Hazmat.
“It [the name] really came from suggestions,” said Ibrahim. “I usually go by “Haz” to simplify things and I just asked a bunch of people saying ‘Ok we need a name, what do you guys think?’ One of the suggestions that came up was Hazmat and I just really liked it.”
The team has since hosted scores of tournaments and streamed hundreds of matches on their Justin.tv (now Twitch.tv) channel. Over time it has strengthened community ties and built a strong following. Numerous competitors have come from all over the state to the team’s spot in Laveen to play and compete against one another.
Ibrahim described a visual growth of the Arizona gaming community since the origination of the team and says it’s only getting bigger and stronger with each day.
“It’s going to the next level for sure. Players are getting stronger, more people are in the stream,” says Ibrahim. “The highlight of it all though is that gamers are getting to know each other and be friendlier to one another. That’s awesome, that’s what I love about it.”
After a brief hiatus, the team is back in action and looking to do something big. Their triple tournament event this Friday marks their “comeback” and officially begins their newly planned bi-weekly competition schedule.
Team Hazmat plans to hold tournaments every other Friday in games such as Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, as well as varying other titles such as Blazblue: Continuum Shift II and Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
Although the plans are set for the continuation of bi-weekly tournaments and streams, Ibrahim mentioned to The Pause Button that the team’s activities will definitely not stop there and there is more yet to come for local players.