One of the most important reasons why I write as a Australian based gaming news writer is to talk about and help encourage the gaming scene in Australia in any way possible. The concept of ‘Game Cafe’ or ‘LAN Cafe’ isn’t new, especially in Melbourne which has quite a few.
However, days ago I noticed a thread on the Melbourne subreddit showing off photos of the new Zen Gaming Lounge. It is a project by three young gamers who wanted to redefine the conventions of a gaming cafe and instead create an environment that seeks to generate a community instead of an isolated place for gamers across Melbourne to play games.
I decided to head on over and see if I could talk to some of the managers and take a look at this place for myself. I was not disappointed.
Upon entering the lounge, a young man smiled and enthusiastically wanted to assist me. His name was Jeremy and upon me telling him I was an editor for Gamespresso and wanted to check out the place, he offered to tour me around. During the tour, I met up with several other staff members of the place including Kevin, another manager.
Jeremy showed me various places around the building including the rows of high end computer rigs, small tabletop tables, the bubble tea maker, the projector screen for console gaming and tournament viewing, an open balcony and a VIP ‘black room’ where the most expensive and high quality peripherally equipped computer rigs are. The rigs themselves boast some incredible specs, all 80+ of them! Throughout the tour, I noticed one important feature, the spaced out availability of sanitizer and wipes.
This links into one of the biggest problems with places like these, it is notorious for its poor hygiene around desks and machines. The availability of sanitizers and wipes is a telltale sign of the Zen Gaming Lounge’s desire to keep the environment clean and as hygienic as possible. Jeremy reassured me that every nook and cranny of the place gets wiped down constantly, not just at night, but throughout the day.
When we had a chance to sit down for a bit and talk about the place, I had asked Kevin why he wanted to create this kind of place despite the abundance in gaming cafes, especially around the Central Business District of Melbourne. He told me quite simply, Zen Gaming Lounge was a passionate desire from him and his other partners to have a comfortable place for people like him to play games.
He mentioned that the projector setup on the third floor was also meant to be a way for the place to become a hub for eSports and fan celebrations. eSports in Australia has started to kick off and he wanted to help encourage the growth just like I do with all gaming matter in Australia. Due to that, he’s been able to get in touch with a few local eSports teams in order to start hosting events such as the upcoming League of Legends Oceanic Pro League match between Legacy and Chiefs.
I had asked Kevin if there were difficulties running or even the planning stages of the lounge. He remarked that the biggest challenge was belief. The team had gone to China, had taken notes and understood what makes a great game cafe and wanted to bring some of those ideals back to Melbourne. The only issue was to get the bank to believe in some young people who wanted to create a place made for gaming. Fortunately, despite some earlier reluctance, younger bankers understood the potential and allowed the risky plunge.
One final point of discussion we had was concerning how the team is coping with network issues. It’s no surprise that Australia’s network cables is in a dismal state with the National Broadband Network being a hot mess. In any case, Adrian, the team’s ‘IT guy’ talked about how the building is utilizing a microwave dish in order to secure a solid network connection at a constant rate, even reaching gigabits of data.
In addition to the network capabilities of the lounge, the team is currently working on getting a massive server installed which would assist in local play, hosting servers and any other necessary uses. With the hardware available to the team, the Zen Gaming Lounge has no troubles with downloading and uploading. Indeed, they mentioned several streamers have turned up and given a go of streaming from the lounge. Something that I’d never expect from a gaming lounge.
Zen Gaming Lounge runs 24/7 with a dedicated staff that runs up and down the stairs to do the best possible service for patrons. The place is equipped with some amazing quality peripherals including gaming chairs, headsets, keyboards, mouse, monitors and powerful PCs. It encourages socialization and community through its various events and tournament viewings. It is a game changer in the gaming center scene in Melbourne. I am looking forward to its continued growth and will be more than happy to spend some afternoons there!