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The Rise of eSports: Designing for a New Audience

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When we meet with clients to discuss the design of their workspaces, we typically hear a lot of the same wishes – floor to ceiling windows, tons of natural light, access to the outdoors, etc. So, it comes as a surprise when a client is instead looking for spaces with multi-level lighting and large graphics with technology as the centerpiece. Having worked on a couple eSports projects now, it’s clear that a new, contrary market has emerged where dimly lit spaces and state-of-the-art LED fixtures help reduce glare and give gamers a better experience.

In the last ten years, the gaming industry has seen an incredible revolution. No longer are video games just an annoying hobby of your teenage kids – it’s now taking over as a nine to five job. Millions of eSports, or competitive video gaming, teams and players practice for hours a day, perfecting their skill and strategy with hopes of winning games that boast up to $30+ million prizes. The US government has even recognized full-time League of Legends players as professional athletes; and with the gaming industry projecting to make $1.4 billion by 2020, it’s time that we all start paying attention.

According to Business Insider, over 300 million fans watch eSports globally. Although most viewers are millennials, data suggests that Gen Z’ers prefer eSports over traditional sports like basketball and baseball. While most kids currently play video games at home, gaming in education as a learning tool is expected to increase. Research shows gaming highlights 21st century skills that are necessary for professional success and supports problem-based learning. In addition, the Asperger / Autism Network (AANE) reports that gaming has helped Autistic children gain valuable social and motor skills, as well as lessons on mistakes and flexibility in learning.

EUA Rendering of Marquette eSports gaming area

In higher education, eSports has become a tool for attracting and retaining students. In 2018, the University of California-Irvine was the first public university to open an eSports arena on campus and the school is now offering a scholarship for students to compete in online video games. As more and more institutions recognize the increasing popularity of gaming and computer science, there are more opportunities for student-gamers to socialize and explore their passion between classes, attracting and engaging a population that previously may not have had a place on campus.

With increasing events, viewers and profits, eSports has drawn attention from many mainstream sponsors, leading organizations and institutions to establish their own teams and invest in cutting-edge facilities for players and staff.

Marquette University (MU) recently announced their stake in the eSports industry, becoming the first major NCAA Division 1 institution to announce a program of its type to its athletic department. The project is designed to MU’s conceptual vision for the potential E-Sports program, which would run like any other varsity sport at MU with scheduled tryouts, a coach and regular practices. In collaboration with the university, EUA is designing a gaming area that will feature multiple gaming systems, a dedicated broadcast and production station and a casual, console gaming area. The design implements large wall graphics with unique and strategic lighting to give the space personality while also reducing glare on screens. Equipped with high performance computers and peripherals along with performance seating, players can focus on the game rather than their setup.

When the team is not using the space, student groups will have access to the eSports area, with hopes of positively impacting student recruitment, generating collaboration within the Department of Computer Science and providing an avenue for leadership development and teamwork opportunities for students who otherwise may not have been engaged in activities outside of the classroom.

EUA designed Milwaukee Bucks Gaming Office

The Milwaukee Bucks also seized the opportunity to join the world of eSports and franchise their own team in the newly established NBA 2K League. Made up of six players from around the country, the Bucks Gaming team live, work and play together during the six-month gaming season. To cultivate top performance, EUA assisted the Bucks in designing a comfortable and competitive office. Battling a tight schedule of just a few weeks, our team custom-designed the space with budget and flexibility in mind. Custom branding, unique lighting patterns and gaming desks and chairs are just a few design elements that contribute to creating an innovative gaming atmosphere.

EUA designed Milwaukee Bucks Corporate Office

In workplace environments, informal gaming spaces have gained momentum. When designing the Milwaukee Bucks Corporate office, creating a gaming lounge was a key driver for attracting, retaining and engaging employees. Comfortable lounge furniture invites employees to play games and rejuvenate without leaving the office, but also aids in creating a high energy atmosphere that fosters socialization and knowledge sharing between employees.

So with more and more people aspiring to be the next “Faker” or “Ninja,” how will the gaming industry impact your organization? Could your school or workplace benefit from a new tech lab? Would your employees appreciate dedicated gaming watch parties? Can games designed for learning have positive impacts on educating and engaging your students? As the growth of eSports continues to skyrocket, how will you stay ahead of the curve?

Jackie Posselt , ASID, LEED AP ID+C
Senior Interior Designer : Principal

Jackie is a Senior Interior Designer and Principal with EUA's Workplace Studio out of the Milwaukee office. She engages with her clients to set the vision of how the space will function. In her free time, Jackie enjoys traveling and walking her French Bulldog.

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