eSports lounges attract more than 80,000 video game enthusiasts every year. Now, one is coming to Chesapeake's Greenbrier Mall at Gameworks.

Gameworks is an entertainment chain with locations in seven cities nationwide -- including Chesapeake, Virginia. Soon, the company, which currently specializes in arcade games, live music, and bar-style dining, will be introducing a new addition to its locations -- eSports lounges.

Phil Kaplan, Gameworks' new CEO and Chairman, told the Virginian-Pilot that the Chesapeake location will get its own eSports lounge before the end of 2018. Kaplan said the addition will include consoles, games, and couches, all aimed to attract video game enthusiasts and casual players. The CEO said that some locations with the new eSports lounges host regular gaming tournaments every other night. The Chesapeake location will also be receiving three new video games featuring characters from DC Comics' Justice League: Big Buck Hunter, Cruis'n Blast, and Injustice, according to the Pilot.

The Gameworks location at Chesapeake's Greenbrier Mall will be one of the seven nationwide outlets to receive a new eSports lounge. But what are eSports, and why would you care?

Like it or not, the world of eSports -- competitive video gaming -- is quickly becoming a serious industry. eSports has gained attention from investors like T-Mobile and Disney, professional athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, and outlets like Forbes, which marked 2018 revenues for the industry at north of $906 million. In the future -- and the present -- video gaming is no longer an embarrassing hobby or an exploit for children; it's a legitimate way to enjoy your leisure time, and it's a hobby that, like any other, requires practice, talent, and skill to perform.

eSports lounges are becoming increasingly popular for both their social aspect and their practicality for enthusiasts. Gaming equipment is expensive, and high-quality gaming computers could easily become an investment of $10,000 or more. With eSports lounges, young people (and old) can enjoy the equipment that allows them to play competitively without draining their wallets.

These lounges have another potential benefit, too: They bring gaming into the social realm. Playing video games is often an isolating activity, with many players spending the majority of their time in their homes, alone. In the extreme, this sometimes leads to social isolation and even depression among those who spend the majority of their time indoors, gaming alone. With eSports lounges, gaming could become a destigmatized social activity that extends beyond the home and into the public sphere. These lounges allow players to engage in their favorite hobby while also meeting others who share their interests, becoming part of an in-person community, developing camaraderie, receiving social recognition for their hobbies, and getting to participate in structured events like competitions.

For Gameworks, the addition of eSports lounges is a natural segway. The company was originally part of a joint venture between entertainment giant Dreamworks and video game developer Sega. In 2018, Gameworks franchises are nationally recognized for electronic sports gaming, with tournaments in their eSports lounges attracting more than 80,000 players and spectators each year. While eSports' debut in the Hampton Roads region is still early, residents are already excited.

"I would go to an [esports] lounge," one 21-year-old Newport News resident, an avid video gamer, said of the new addition. The college student emphasized the social opportunities these venues provide, as well as the access to equipment.

"eSports lounges let you relive the days of lan parties, playing online games together side by side," he continued. "Also, a lot of people are unable to purchase the most up-to-date hardware for gaming. Going to a gaming lounge, equipped with high-end computers, can even give the playing field a competitive edge."

Would you go to the new eSports lounge? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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