Jay L. Epstein
With the recent increase in Esports’ technological advancements and funding, higher education institutions are racing to offer Esports to all students and provide a fun location for them to socialize on their campuses. Acentech’s technology consultants have the in-depth experience to guide designers and facilities managers tasked with making their Esports vision a physical reality.
The Esports industry is growing rapidly, with domestic and global players at the college and university level. An Esports facility can be valuable as a tool to draw applicants in the same way that mainstream college sports recruit student athletes. There are about 175 colleges and universities offering varsity Esports programs in the U.S., according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and tens of millions of dollars in scholarship funds, there is still a lot of room for growth in collegiate Esports.
Designing a competitive gaming space is not the same as designing a typical computer lab. Both spaces include many computers, desks, and chairs, but they are not comparable. Esports is an immersive technology space that requires the same attention to equipment, player experience, and university branding as any collegiate sports facility.
The computers required for Esports are high performance gaming PCs with top of the line graphics cards. To take advantage of the graphics cards, gaming spaces need larger monitors with high refresh rates. These are not the budget-conscious workstations bought in bulk for a typical computer lab. The gaming computers and larger monitors require more AC power and as a result, produce more heat. HVAC design for gaming rooms should take this into account.
As you can imagine, the experience, the impact and total immersion of the gamers’ content are brimming with technology streaming at breakneck speeds. A lot happens when a gamer uses the controllers. She could blast off into space or fire a rocket, or shift in time to another dimension. The magic happens within the equipment where the technology lives and breathes. The technology behind the walls is all brought together with lightning fast servers, switches, extenders and even broadcast equipment. The opportunities mesh across a landscape like no other.
Although the players typically wear headsets with built-in microphones, the acoustics are still important. The noise from the computers should also be considered. Some gaming spaces take this to an extreme and locate the computers in a separate room, employing high-speed fiber optic extenders for the monitors and peripherals. Low latency systems are critical to player performance. In facilities with audience viewing areas, the sound system must be capable of reproducing the players’ audio. This sounds simple, but the sound system must be designed such that each team cannot hear any of the other teams’ communication.
Team size for Esports is typically five active players (a few titles have a size of six). A practice space should be able to accommodate the active players as a minimum. For competitions, the ‘arena’ can be installed into larger rooms with furniture set up in pods for each team. The audience can be live/in-person, live/streaming, or a combination of both.
In-person viewing requires large screen displays or video walls capable of switching between the active players’ monitors. The video walls need to be able to show multiple views at the same time. Sightlines from the spectators to the video walls should be optimized over the views to the players themselves.
Although live, in-person events are exciting, they are not the primary audience. Most fans watch streaming and recorded events. Streaming can be as simple as web cams and Twitch streams, and as complex as a professional-level video production studio. In this case, webcams are required, and larger events will require additional cameras as well. Any level of video production will require lighting design beyond what is typical in a computer lab. Camera sightlines need to be a part of the furniture layout. Custom furniture, wall finishes, and visible branding will allow the players to represent the college in the streamed competitions.
When Esports become a priority for your institution, we can help. Acentech can guide your institution from site selection and initial programming through the construction phase and commissioning. Our technology consultants have experience planning and designing complex gaming facilities and supporting technology systems, and are well equipped to enter the arena and provide design support for your facility.