Isolated or Not, Ready to Play Esports

The health and safety of populations everywhere is first in our minds as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as we witness changes to how people are connecting virtually in a time of strategic and vital social isolation, there is one area of entertainment that seems ready-made for these evolving times: esports.

Created as a way of connecting individual players across remote locations, esports tournaments are being held in modified ways to maintain social distancing. Rather than gathering at battle arenas, players are staying home and continuing to connect through remote video production technology.

Fusion Arena in Philadelphia, PA | AVIXA Fusion Arena in Philadelphia, PA

Meanwhile, interest in this burgeoning area continues to grow, and calls are still coming in for construction of new esports venues. Already, the shape of these multipurpose gathering spaces is changing in response to how people will gather in a world changed by pandemic.

“There's still going to be a place for a venue, it's just going to be a little bit different in size and and how it's configured at this point,” observes Marvin Mastin, Brand Activation Team Manager with Populous. “The future of esports isn’t going to stay in homes and basements and living rooms, it's going to at some point have some place to come together.”

Already, the unique community aspects of gaming are influencing how these venues are built. Many are planned as multipurpose facilities, where the main event space is essentially a small theater purpose-built for esports, but the same space can also be used for concerts and other public events.

Additionally, shared workspaces and lounge areas are likely to be part of the blueprint, Mastin observes. “Those elements are being mentioned more often, always with the adaptability and flexibility to grow in terms of what a venue can offer, but also expand to host tournaments. That is going to be even more important going forward.”

Technology, of course, is essential to these venues, and the particularly savvy audience members who frequent them will expect a high-caliber implementation of audiovisual and communications elements.

In order to create a convincing immersive experience for this crowd, it’s all about producing dazzlingly choreographed digital content, lighting and sound to produce a show before, during and after a game.

“These folks are quick to call out something that’s not cool,” says CJ Davis, Creative Director of Quince Imaging. “They’re a highly critical audience, and you have to make sure you're picking the right technology that will make the experience feel very high end from start to finish.”

The demand for high production values is being felt at all levels of esports competition, from high school and university leagues up through the professional tournaments. Fortunately, costs are coming down for creating engaging graphics playback and “takeover moments” when something happens in a game.

Here, esports has a slight advantage, Davis points out, because AV designers can tap into a game’s APIs and use them as commands and triggers for lighting, video and sound show elements. “The effects graphics will play automatically based on something happening in the game itself,” Davis explains. “That's something you can't really get necessarily in traditional sports, because you're waiting for somebody to press a button after a basket is made. But in esports, everything can be instantaneous if you're tied in directly with the game.”

Beyond the advanced production values, it’s also important to have solid AV at the foundation when creating an immersive experience in esports. “Immersive doesn't necessarily have to jump straight to digital display — it’s about making it feel like it's a professional space. It’s more than just going to a computer lab; it has the professional audio communication systems and things that make you feel like you're playing like a pro. When you train and play like a pro, then you want to be on a stage like a pro.”



Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.