A bar where everybody knows your game
Guildhouse was created by gamers, for gamers and non-gamers alike—so long as they seek a communal place to “nerd out.”
The atmosphere in a place that calls itself a gaming center is often dark, haunting, almost dungeon-like. Then there is Guildhouse, a bright, massive venue where esports blare from the TVs, the crowd’s chatter is lively, and beverages with names like “Mana Potion” and “Arcane Rune” dot the room.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Guildhouse was dreamt up in 2017 by avid gamers Kevin Wick and Matt Escobar. They sought to create a destination not simply to play games, but to engage in a holistic social experience with people who like games—whether they consider themselves gamers or not.
Or as Wick puts it: “I want somebody who is into games to be able to bring a friend who's not and say, ‘Yeah, this is what I'm into.’” And the friend say: “‘I get why this is a great spot to hang out.’”
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wick noticed a number of businesses in the area were shutting down.
“Kevin had this great concept,” says Escobar. “It was just a matter of finding the right space. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses were closing in our community, and…”
Wick interjects: “No. Unfortunate for them, very fortunate for us, to be clear.”
The building had been a beautiful wedding venue, but hadn’t held a ceremony in almost two years, Wick adds. The previous owner just wanted to get out. “It seemed like the stars were aligned,” he says. The two men took over the space and officially opened the doors to Guildhouse in 2021.
Build and they will come
At Guildhouse, patrons can enjoy their favorite games on a row of 40 PCs and up to 12 game consoles along the outer walls.
“Whether it’s World of Warcraft or Overwatch, most people are coming here to play games they already own,” says Wick. “We provide the social interaction with others and the ability to enjoy some adult beverages.”
The games aren’t limited to the virtual. Board games such as Settlers of Catan or Dungeons and Dragons are stacked on makeshift shelves next to the bar, free to grab and play.
In the back of the venue is the Red Bull Room, a more traditional cyber cafe (they still exist!) where more serious gamers dwell, the music is low, the lights are dim, and the competition is high.
Elsewhere, creators have access to production studios to stream or broadcast live competitions on Twitch from the main floor. And professional and collegiate esports teams have access to training rooms to prepare for competitions.
What’s on tap
Of course, it wouldn’t be a gaming bar without the bar. Available beer comes from a rotating local selection. The cofounders attempted to go upscale with their cocktail program but soon realized that fussiness was detracting from gameplay.
“Our customers don't want to wait in line for the bartender to make their specialty cocktail,” Wick says. “We made it easy to get a high-quality drink fast and not have them be that person holding up the game.”
All about community
“The actual space for gameplay is probably one-tenth of the overall size of the venue,” says Wick. “We are [operating at] one level above a bar that has video games. We are an esports social athletic club.”
He clarifies: “The attraction is interactions with other people—not interactions with games.”
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