The changing face of gaming houses and esports training facilities

Gaming houses are nothing new, but they're becoming more prevalent in the UK scene and orgs around the globe are thinking more about their format and how to maximise their effectiveness.

From expert gaming hardware to dedicated sports psychologists and even team chefs, team facilities are on the up. LAURA BYRNE explores how League of Legends organisations are pulling out all stops to provide top of the range training facilities in this feature.

UK-based org exceL Esports recently announced their new League of Legends training facility will be housed at Twickenham Stadium, the ‘home of English rugby’.

The team explained they wanted a ‘clear separation in where the players live and where they work’ and that they were ‘moving away from the gaming house model' (they previously had the OMEN house in Reading).

Traditionally, esports teams would live, practice and review their matches and discuss this all in one space. However, exceL’s new set up at Twickenham allows the players separate areas for practice and analysis.

This is important. We've come a long way from the days of Elementz and Saintvicious arguing in a cramped apartment, getting under each others' skin while practicing.

From a brand perspective, it also gives exceL the ability to cement themselves within the UK esports scene. Having the players available and in the UK opens up the opportunities for meet and greets and appearances, and allows them to engage with the fanbase here.

exceL MD Kieran Holmes-Darby previously said on the Lolesports website: "On Reddit people have said things like ‘I'm a huge LoL fan, I watch the EU LCS, I'm from the UK but I've never heard of exceL.' That means they don't watch UK LoL & shows how disconnected the UK region has been to what is going on in its own backyard."

Being in the LEC and based in the UK is an interesting decision and we look forward to seeing how this develops.

Also, the other half of exceL’s 10-man roster will be competing in the LVP UK league which kicks off in the first half of 2019 and features nine teams including Fnatic's academy side for the first time.

 

"Flying out a full roster, coaches and support staff each week has brought up some questions and concerns from the gaming community. Will the constant travel contribute to player burnout? Is it efficient? Will it affect team performance?"

 

Fellow LEC team Origen has also made the decision to base their League of Legends training facilities remotely. Origen will work out of the RFRSH HQ in Copenhagen next to their sister organisation Astralis.

In a Q&A on Reddit, Origen’s coach Deficio explained: “Living and playing from Copenhagen is very important for us in the first year as we have the entire RFRSH organisation, our sports performance team and the Astralis CSGO team here.

"We will be working closely with everyone and believe we can build a stronger infrastructure and better culture here for the players in our awesome office and apartments."

As both exceL’s and Origen’s respective training facilities are housed remotely from the LEC studios in Berlin, both teams have confirmed they will be flying back and forth each week to compete.

Flying out a full roster, coaches and support staff each week has brought up some questions and concerns from the gaming community. Will the constant travel contribute to player burnout? Is it efficient? Will it affect team performance?

While this concept is fairly new to the esports scene, it is comparable to some traditional sports where teams travel large distances to compete every other week. Although the LEC takes place every week, it lasts 9 weeks for each split, meaning each organisation will be able to make the most out of the off season.

However, other issues such as transport delays have been put into question. The weather and the unpredictability of the UK transport system could cause multiple issues for the team. Those eco-friendly members of the community also commented about the carbon footprint of flying a whole League of Legends team to and from Berlin every week.

There are also more facilities emerging in the UK. The likes of Team Endpoint, Vexed Gaming and Diabolus have had facilities, though the latter learnt lessons from theirs, as did previous org Choke Gaming when they put players up in accommodation. Let's not forget the more negative experiences, so the UK scene can learn from them and improve.

 

Bigger and better

Stateside, in 2018, esports powerhouse Team Liquid created an insane training facility complete with high tech computer set ups, game dedicated ‘war rooms’ and a personal chef.

The 8,000sq ft building was funded by Team Liquid partner Alienware, who provided gaming hardware for the entire facility. It houses their League of Legends team, their Counter-Strike team and their in-house production team 1UP studios. Liquid’s CEO Steve Arhancet, has mentioned has he is excited to see ‘collaboration’ between all Liquid’s esports teams. This convergence is becoming more of a trend, it seems.

Korean organisation SKT revealed their ‘Team Razer’ training facility in 2016, similarly funded by a sponsor. With SKT being the most successful team in League of Legends history, many were surprised to discover the simplicity of their training facility.

Complete with their massive trophy cabinet, the SKT main training room has a traditional computer set up. The building also displays a few side rooms with comfortable seating and a manager’s area. The simplicity of the facility raises questions. Do you really need the likes of a sports physiologist, fancy room set ups and gym facilities to have a successful team? With their success at MSI and the World Championship, Chinese LPL teams would argue yes.

The Chinese esports gaming facilities are some seriously impressive buildings. China’s EDward Gaming organisation houses their League of Legends team in an 8,900sq ft building with three floors. The building includes a massive reception area, cafeteria, 10 large practice rooms and their ever-growing trophy wall. But fellow team OMG took it to a whole new level when they revealed their 2,000sqm spaceship-inspired training facility in 2018 (pictured, top).

The site is said to be inspired by the sci-fi film Ender’s Game. Having such an impressive building has created some great buzz for the team. It has allowed potential investors and fans an insight into the team and how they work.

It’s clear to see that across the globe teams are moving away from a ‘gaming house’ model and are creating more professional set ups. Whether they are investing millions or simply creating a space which allows a structured and work-focused environment, it’s clear that esports organisation are placing a high priority on providing a facility to set their players up for success.

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