The rise of interconnectivity in the form of gaming channels and online personalities has given a stereotypically introverted community a chance to be extroverts. Simply put, more people play games, which equates to a greater demand for shared experiences, and a larger pool of talent.
As a result, competitive gaming has not only begun to break away from its long-standing status as ‘quirky sub-culture’, but has proved to be an incredibly lucrative industry – and a pretty fun night out. Audience figures for top global competitions register in the tens of millions, with the prize funds that are just as eye-popping.
Whereas the East has long embraced this form of competition, with bonafide stars and 24-hour gaming cafés aplenty, Western sports bars are only just beginning to realise its gravitational pull, making the potential for eSports-themed nightlife huge.
Enter stage Meltdown, a franchise bringing the allure of alternative entertainment to those who want to see and play something a little bit different. What started as a Parisian experiment morphed into a revolution, and is now fast becoming an international phenomenon, with branches in major cities such as Madrid, Toronto and London.
Meltdown London’s Duncan Morrison gave us the lowdown on a typical night at the bar, what the eSports experience means to its customers, and how he expects the industry to perform in the near future.
Culture Trip: What was the inspiration behind a bar like Meltdown London?
Duncan Morrison: The idea grew out of the Barcraft movement, in the early days of StarCraft II. A Barcraft was a single day or weekend takeover of an existing venue to watch a major Starcraft 2 tournament and we began organising these in Paris, but encountered a lot of issues with sceptical owners, clashes with regular sports and poor internet connection. All of this inspired us to open our own bar that was completely dedicated to eSports.
CT: Are these numbers increasing, and if so, what would you put that down to?
DM: Things have steadily grown over the four years that we’ve been here. I’d put that down to eSports becoming more and more popular, and becoming more and more a part of the public consciousness, as well as us always working to improve the bar and the experience we provide.
CT: What have regular customers said about the Meltdown London experience, and what it means to them?
DM: A lot of people have met their best friends and social circles at the bar, and that’s a really nice thing to have been able to provide. London can be a pretty impersonal place a lot of the time and I like to think Meltdown has always managed to avoid that, it’s a place where everyone has some common ground and people are happy to talk to and get to know new people.
CT: How do you see eSports performing over the next couple of years, and how will bars such as Meltdown London aid this?
DM: I don’t think anything is going to slow down eSports’s meteoric rise over the last few years, and I think locations like ours provide a key part of that, letting people really immerse themselves in it offline as well as online, building a real community in London.
Visit Meltdown London’s events schedule page for a rundown of upcoming events including ‘Smash Weekly’, ‘Overwatch 1v1’, ‘CS:GO Night’ and the fan favourite ‘Open Play’ session.