The Games That Are Played In Cultural Facilities

Hate the fact that your city will provide millions to fund an arena that only gets used 20 times a year but not arts organizations that each host hundreds of events a year?

Concerned that the availability of home entertainment systems with huge screens and gaming systems are keeping people at home rather than participating in cultural activities?

Well now your fears and concerns are combining to haunt you even more!

According to CityLab a $50 million eSports Arena is being constructed in Philadelphia. There are other eSports facilities around the country, but this will be the first standalone facility.  Just to be clear, I am not sure if the local government has subsidized the construction of this arena. According to the article, it is being built by Comcast Spectror.

Some might see this as an unnecessary shrine to a niche subculture. But for fans of esports (or professional video-game competitions), this was an inevitable next step. An estimated 250 million people watch esports, although most do so from the comfort of their homes. Global revenue is slated to hit $1.1 billion this year, and the industry is growing into a more social, spectator sport.

This article didn’t catch my eye because I perceived eSports arenas as a threat to arts and cultural organizations. Actually, I see some potential in providing a venue for gaming.

I was at a meeting a couple months ago and someone said they had started hosting video game related activities in their facility. They identified people living within a certain radius of their facility who posted game walk-through videos on YouTube and Twitch and set up sessions where local residents could come in and play against them.

They were only charging about $5 a person, but the overhead was low and they also earned money from concessions. They saw getting a new group of people walking into the facility and feeling comfortable as a win. Plus they got an opportunity to get a sense of what the people might be looking for in terms of programming.

I have started talking to staff about trying to set up something in our facility. One of my tech crew is a professional gamer who travels around the country competing. We haven’t lined anything up yet. If anyone else has had success and has some tips, let me know.

People might be horrified that a performing arts space is being desecrated by such base activities as video game tournaments.

I am not actually raising a hypothetical situation here. A director of the state opera house in Kyrgyzstan was fired for allowing a video game tournament in the building.

Many people were aghast at the thought of the competition in that space, but others felt that it was both relevant and fiscally responsible:

Liberal opinion leader Bektour Iskender disagreed in a January 21 Facebook post:

Hello?! A Dota tournament at the Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the coolest ways of advertising opera and ballet. And its not as if you can just find 180,000 som (the total Beeline paid to rent out the building) lying on the ground.

Note: 180,000 som is about $2,600

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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