Professional gaming houses
In the large and ever growing Esports scene of today it is extremely common for many teams to have a “gaming house,” a place where all of the players play, practice, eat, sleep, strategize, and all around combine their personal and professional lives into a single living space. Although this is common practice throughout the world for many games (especially League of Legends), I would submit to you that there are some very real dangers of having an entire team of gaming stars under one roof. Also, There are a few simple reasons why new teams continue the trend of putting both the business and player sides into a single home in the suburbs, and it’s not to keep up the tradition.
Gaming houses started out of necessity. In the days when a team could not make much money until they had reached the pinnacle of their game, many teams needed a place where they could practice often, together, and found that if all the players lived in a small place they could split the rent and have a lot of time to train with minimal cost. If you were to look at the financial situation alone it makes sense, one $1000 a month home/apartment is cheaper than 5 players each renting a $400 room then paying for gas or public transit to meet somewhere for practice with equipment in tow.
The down side to having a 5 man team living together (and in a lot of cases, a coach and other staff members as well) is that the players now live in a work environment. The bed is the same distance to the kitchen as it is to the work desk and coach. You know how relieved you feel when after a long day at the office you get to walk out the front door and know that you can finally have some time alone and do something else? How nice it is to know you don’t have to see your coworkers until the next day? What if you were unable to experience that release and alone time, but instead had to run into Janet from HR every single time you go to the kitchen?
Another issue which we have seen several times in recent years is this: Relationships with coworkers are best kept professional, but when you are with someone 24 hours a day it is impossible to retain a relationship on a strictly professional level. Many players (just like every human being on Earth) will not get along with each other. That’s just how life goes. Forcing people into close proximity in a high pressure situation, like playing a highly competitive match together each and every week, makes negative feedback and suggestions for improvement into grating nags, causing rifts within the team which could have all been avoided if they had only been forced together at work.
Finally, the loss of a personal life and the feeling of your teammates becoming your “forced family” causes burnout and resentment to occur much more rapidly, especially if there is one player on the team who is extremely outspoken (which in a competitive profession is impossible to avoid). The grind that would have been 8-12 hours a day of meetings and games now extends to a never ending 24/7 situation and many players either begin to shut down or discover that they are simply “not cut out to be a pro gamer,” when in reality they simply are wanting a life in addition to a career.
So…Why Gaming Houses?:
It does sound pretty awful to be stuck at work all day and night for the remainder of your career, so why do organizations continue to use them? Well, there are a couple of reasons that immediately come to mind for me: Cost, circumvent irresponsible players, and keeping a close eye on the investment.
As mentioned earlier in this post as a reason that gaming houses started to be used, the cost of housing all your players inside of what is essentially the “office” saves money. A LOT of money. For North American League of Legends teams for example, having your team based in Los Angeles, CA has a lot of value because: A) The weekly matches your team will attend are in LA. B) Renting and maintaining an office space in LA, and assuring that all your players can arrive on time each and every day requires a lot more money than simply having to rent a house where they are all within shouting distance. Also, if the organization has a house for the players, as a part of the players’ compensation they will get free rent which allows you to pay your players less and still have a clear conscience.
This is an aspect that most people don’t like to talk about because “we’re all adults here,” but in reality many of the players and staff within Esports organizations are too young to have had much experience living on their own. Many dropped out of college to join or simply moved into the team house immediately after high school graduation. Not only are these young players more likely to enjoy the all hours gaming and living together, but if you were a coach trying to prepare for a career-making game, would you trust 5 18-year-olds who were up all night training to be at the office by 8am? Although many of the players are responsible and take their position as a pro very seriously, some aren’t ready to handle that kind of responsibility (see TSM Chaox).
Got Any Alternatives Then?:
Thank you for asking! Although I would not consider myself an expert on organizing a gaming empire, I would give a humble suggestion to all established teams: Let your players live how/where they would like. Get a team office where your scrims, training, VOD reviews, and strategy meetings feel professional and important. Just as most work places demand work at work and fun/social lives after quitting time, you should encourage your players to do the same. A more rigid environment will promote good working relationships between your players and cut down on the familiarity that causes animosity.
On the other hand, if you are a young team with little to no sponsorship, a gaming house is better than nothing. You may find that you rapidly get sick of each other, but at least you’ll all be there for team practice.
*****Please take all these suggestions with a grain of salt, I’m a writer, not a team owner.*****