Would you like the freedom to game in the open, to compete in eSports while drinking beer, and to go somewhere where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? 8CN had the opportunity to sit down with two men who are aiming to do just that with their AFK Gaming Lounge, a project they’re launching on Kickstarter.
It all began when Tyler Peckham and Kevin Wick got the inspiration for a gaming-themed bar and lounge back in college.
“The idea started when we came into a business plan class at San Jose State University. At the beginning of the semester, I pitched this idea of an eSports bar,” Peckham said.
After combining forces with Wick, they developed the business plan, carrying it through business plan competitions at the university. Before they knew it, the pieces began to fall into place, and they decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000.
“What that $50,000 on Kickstarter would reflect is a little addition to what we already have,” says Peckham. “What we already have is a lease for a building downtown, we already have a whole lot of stuff going into this… We have a tremendous amount of value already in place. The $50,000 in the Kickstarter is kind of our way of asking gamers what is it that you want to see in this place. Are you more interested in the bar aspect or are you more interested in the gaming aspect or the lounge aspect? So the 50k is … asking gamers to put your money where your mouth is.”
Sure enough, the Kickstarter retains a unique format to allow the gaming world to voice their opinion. When you pledge, you gain overall “experience” for the project. By pledging to different brackets, you level up specific perks that are included in either the lounge, the bar, or the LAN area. This allows for a slightly more interactive Kickstarter where the backers have a say in the final design of the building.
The large 15,000 square foot facility centers around the idea of gaming freedom, complete with the already mentioned (and welcomed) bar, lounge and LAN areas, as well as private rooms for teams and rentals with a “clean techy vibe to it, not your typical bedroom gamer dungeon.”
There will also be a large stage area with room for hundreds of gamers to watch ongoing eSport matches.
“I think eSports is the culmination of a lot of things,” says Wick. “It’s probably the next level for gaming at its maximum… Having a team is necessary, and it really creates an entire social experience, and that’s what I’m really in love with is the social aspect of having a team, being part of a team, watching them play, being able to sport together with your friends as a specific team. That’s all stuff that traditional sports has always had and esports really brings to video games.”
He also expresses a desire for a future where eSports resembles any other sport in the media, with each city having its own team to fight for a common title, and he hopes for AFK to be a part of that.
Peckham made sure to establish that expansion was most definitely “on the menu.” If all goes well with the initial efforts, they say they would love to see an AFK in every city, even though they understand that they have quite the challenge ahead of them.
Upon asking about the risks of the business they’re trying to jumpstart, Peckham said, “Back in the nineties, LAN centers were all the rage… What we realized though, is that even though that happened and LAN centers closed off, there are still LAN events being held. Every weekend, there is a LAN event being held somewhere. Gamers are basically trying to find places to bring their PC’s.”
Peckham and Wick fully realize that modifications to the traditional LAN centers of the early years must be made if they want to create a fulfilling experience by today’s standards. Continuing, Peckham said, “So we know that the hourly model that most LAN centers used to rely on, we know that doesn’t work. That’s why we reworked the business model of what a LAN center used to be and moved away from just the hourly PC rentals and more towards getting the captive audience into AFK and then treating them like the eSports king and having beer.”
Although the initial AFK will be constructed in San Jose, CA, the creators of this fantastic project urged people to still pledge to allow for further expansion as well let other people know about the ongoing effort.
Upon closing the interview, in a display of passion, Wick shared, “The gamers need, we need a real world place to hang out, grab a beer and play games. It’s something that we’ve always craved, but when the LAN centers died, then there was a big hole in our hearts there. And we want to bring that back. And we want to bring it back tenfold. Not just the computers with the internet, we want to have a place for community, we want to have a bar, we want to have a stage, we want to have eSports, we want to have big events, we want to build this place for gamers.”
Cheers. For the Horde!