Video games aren’t just for kids or reclusive teenagers. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), there are now a total of 226.6 million video gamers of all ages in the United States, a growth of almost 6 percent from 214.4 million in 2020. Because of the pandemic, that number is 30 percent higher than it was in 2019. This sudden increase also means integrators are seeing more requests for rooms that cater to this activity.
Especially as a result of the pandemic, video games have become a source of stress relief and a way to connect with family and friends, as well as pure entertainment. It also means that the time spent on other digital activities – like watching TV, browsing the internet or using social media – has been reduced. Integrators and manufacturers are closely watching this trend to see how best to serve customers asking for margins. Here are our top tips for creating this type of space:
1. Get personal
Any athlete will tell you that the equipment they use for their sport is very individual. It’s the same with gaming. Some players stick to one type of console (PlayStation, Xbox, etc.), while others often have multiple. They want to be comfortable for the many hours they may be in one position. It’s up to the designer or integrator to find the most comfortable furniture for the customer to sit or recline in, what lighting makes the game screen easy to see but not eyestrain for the customer, and how the air moves feels in the room.
2. Determine the most important component
While there are some games that can be played entirely alone, most games are designed to be played with others and over the internet. Of course, the best way to enhance this experience is to provide the customer with an excellent connection.
“A direct hardwired connection is the way to go,” said Tom Clancy, executive vice president of Audio Command Systems.
According to Clancy, one of the biggest challenges is getting the controller to the console and connecting that router to the Ethernet cable. The range of PlayStation technology is 50-100 feet, while the range for wireless controllers for Xbox is only 19-28 feet, which is something to consider when hardwiring a system that cannot be easily moved or hidden.
3. Find the best monitor for your sport
Plan to find out where their priorities lie. A professional esports gamer — one who could make money streaming their games through social media, for example — will want the fastest response time and may even be willing to sacrifice the resolution on their own screen for it. However, most casual gamers want high-quality video, with the typical average for responsiveness being a refresh rate of 120-140 Hertz. The top tier tends to be 4K TVs, as most games can’t quite keep up with 8K just yet. High-end models usually offer gaming features like variable refresh rate (VRR) support, as well as an Auto Low Latency mode that automatically switches the TV to gaming mode when a game is launched from a compatible device to minimize input lag to achieve.
Computer monitors are also something to consider if your client prefers this type of game. Most high-end gaming monitors have a fast response time that produces very little motion blur, and variable refresh rate (VRR) support and HDMI 2.1 bandwidth are also options to enhance the experience. It all depends on which games the customer prefers, as some perform better with more resolution, less reactivity or vice versa.
Customers may also want more than one screen, especially if multiple people are playing different games at the same time, or if they want to play the same game from two different perspectives.
4. Create immersive sound
The best video game experience is the one that brings the player into the world in which they play. Luckily for integrators just entering this market, the audio in these rooms is similar to that of a home theater. According to Michael Short, Global Marketing Director, Residential and Marine at Crestron, while the same subwoofers and speakers can be installed in these rooms, it’s also important to consider technology that enables a “gaming mode.”
“It’s not just about what’s on the screen, it’s also about how it sounds and how perfectly you curate that space,” Short said, adding that it’s also a consideration if the client wants the audio from the playroom throughout the house.
Headphones and additional microphones are something integrators typically rely on their customers to choose themselves, as it can be a deeply personal choice for gamers.
What’s next for e-gaming rooms
The pure gaming room is probably not a trend, but the multi-purpose room with gaming possibilities is. Customers are leaning toward a cleaner approach to these spaces as Oculus and virtual reality games slowly but surely grow and require open spaces to play. 8K will soon be on the horizon, although games still have a long way to go to catch up with this resolution.
The biggest trend is the growing social aspect of video games. Especially when colleges — like Miami University, which has its own esports lounge and arena — offer scholarships and incentives for students to play, parents and homeowners will take more interest in video games and their potential to bring people together.