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Rochester area's first e-sports venue opens soon

Andrew Hyman
Updated: February 09, 2020 12:19 AM
Created: February 08, 2020 11:32 PM

EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A local push to grow the electronic gaming field is gaining ground, as one of the area’s first venues dedicated to the sport prepares to open.

News10NBC took a look at the new “PlayerzZone” restaurant and bar, which is set to open in the Pianoworks Mall in East Rochester.

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The space features a wide layout of television and computer screens for gamers and spectators to engage in different online and console-based video competitions in a community setting.

The bar was the brainchild of United States Marine Corps veterans Steve Drexler and Jeff Wren, as well as Rochester City Councilmember and Army vet Jose Peo. 

According to recent stats, the e-gaming field has grown into a billion-dollar industry within the last decade, as competitions and venues sprout up across the world and the United States.

Locally, Rochester hosted its first tournament last June.

The growing excitement is part of why Drexler says his team felt the time was right to open a venue.

"The [tournament] winnings are $3 million for a solo place, that's where the future is, these kids are coming up now and they're able to play and do that," he said.

And it’s not just the gaming floor where the sport has grown, as locally, students at the Rochester Institute of Technology have been developing and programming games for years.

We spoke to two students, Herman McElveen and Durrell Bedassie, who have not only programmed the games, but, played, and won on them, too.

RIT fields its own e-sports teams, which include more than 160 athletes who have taken in at least five national championships.

"I’m playing a game that I love, and I’m making money off of it,” Bedassie said. “What can you complain about?"

What may look like just a bunch of sitting down is something McElveen says can challenge the intensity and excitement of any real sporting event, without the real risk of injury.

"It's technical and it's very creative, and it's a good way to show off your skills, especially since it's not physical, it's more in the mind," McElveen said.

McElveen and Bedassie say even if you don’t have an interest in playing, e-gaming teams offer coaching and even scouting roles.

Back at PlayerzZone, owners hope they have the hub to draw in those local developers and players, all while trying to attract the next generation.

"Everybody always thought that gaming is something you could only do in your parent’s basement, but not anymore." Drexler said.

Drexler says his team hopes to host tournaments and connect with different student groups to form e-sport teams of its own.

To find out more about the PlayerzZone, click here.

To learn more about RIT’s programs, view here.


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