It’s 2 a.m. on Saturday night, and the teams are still going strong as the Call of Duty tournament enters its 10th hour. The tournament is one of the first held at BrookLAN, a new esports venue that opened just a block away from Lot45 on June 22.
The new venue, co-founded by Alec Polsley and Eitan Earnest, is located in an old manufacturing warehouse on Troutman Street. It features a full kitchen and bar, arcade games, pay-per-hour PCs and consoles, and a huge arena in the back room for tournaments in what has become a spectator sport. Customers can also rent a private room for teams to practice in, as well as a solitary space for streaming on platforms like Twitch.
Over the years, the world of esports has grown into a community rivaling the size and funding of regular sports leagues. According to a report by Newzoo, global revenues from the esports industry will reach $1,084 million in 2021.
There is increasing viewership for professional esports leagues like the Call of Duty League, and the best players can receive college scholarships, sponsorships from companies like Nike and large social media followings.
Polsley remembers going to video game tournaments as a teenager where the prize would be a subway card. Now prizes are frequently thousands of dollars, if not more (in 2019, the 16-year-old winner of the Fortnite World Cup took home $3 million).
Dedicated spaces for these tournaments (which Polsley notes are essential so that all competitors have the same conditions and signal transfer times) have become increasingly popular around the world.
The vision for BrookLAN includes space for tournaments (such as the weekly Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart competitions they’re already hosting), but also space for relaxing after work or a fun night out.
Polsley emphasizes that the space is open to all, and that they want to foster an environment for gamers and non-gamers alike to enjoy an evening of World of Warcraft or Fortnite. He also wants to host at least four charity events a year and is planning one in August to raise money for local charities.
Most gamers in the U.S. are not kids, and most of BrookLAN’s customers aren’t either. According to one survey, the largest percentage of gamers (38 percent) in the U.S. fall within the 18-34 age bracket.
Polsley says of their customers, “the heavy majority is 18+.” In fact, of the seven private party requests they’ve already had, only one has been for a child. Of the other six, one was a bachelor party and five were 21+.
Another stereotype associates video games with an “isolated guy in the basement,” as customer Isaac Bjorke tells Bushwick Daily. But the huge, open venue rejects that culture; as Bjorke notes, it has “serious gaming, but it also feels fun and friendly,” a place to kick back with friends over drinks or a round of Mario Kart.
Just weeks after opening, BrookLAN is already drawing crowds and, according to Polsley, regulars who will grab dinner and stay till closing. Players pay by hour for use of the PCs, on which Polsley said the most popular games were Valorant, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Fortnite.
But no worries if you’re into less mainstream games. Xavier Ferman works at BrookLAN but comes in on his off days to hang out with friends and play video games (his favorites are Super Smash Bros and Guilty Gear Strive). He remarks on the diverse and extensive offerings of games available to customers, “If you’re into it, it’s here.”
All images courtesy of BrookLAN.
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