Computer clubs in Russia were at their peak of popularity around the 2000s. If there was at least one game library in the city, there was no doubt – many schoolchildren (and not only) constantly ran there to play Warcraft or Counter-Strike. Then the boom of clubs passed, and they disappeared from the radar after the proliferation of home computers. But in the past few years, these clubs have begun to gain popularity and develop again, turning into huge franchises and tournament venues. So what way did computer clubs go from the 2000s, and how do modern options differ from what came before? Let’s understand the material.
From basements to large arenas
Close your eyes and try to imagine a computer club. The smell of cutlets fried in a huge amount of butter from the dining room overhead, excited shouts of the guys who lost the match are heard somewhere, and in the far corner a rather insistent “let me play a round” is heard. If something like this pops up in your head, then you remember the clubs of the 2000s quite well.
Most of them were so small that visitors had to sit almost back to back, and were located in the basement or next door to some store or dining room. The managers of such clubs were administrators, many of whom more often worked according to their conscience than according to the rules. Some turned a blind eye to the ransomware “one skating rink” and even drove enthusiastic gamers away from the PC for the sake of those who needed it, while others, on the contrary, gave more “five more minutes” to finish the game or even worked on credit. Back then, many would flock to clubs after (or instead of) lessons and spend hours playing StarCraft, Quake, Counter-Strike or Diablo over the local network. And then the boom of computer clubs gradually began to fade – this was influenced by the spread of the Internet and home computers.
Many establishments have closed, but some have chosen to keep up with the booming video game market. With the growing popularity of esports, such clubs began to invest more in development: fast Internet, powerful PCs and high-quality peripherals. Many have moved from basements to shopping malls, some even got their own stages for exhibition games. The industry has ceased to be a “chamber” business, and some clubs have turned into real franchises, such as the Colizeum arena chain, which includes more than 150 clubs in many large cities of Russia.
Of course, the clubs lost their basement comfort, but a completely new atmosphere came to replace it. Ten years ago, could you have thought that you could soon get together with friends to play in VIP areas on a PC with trendy lighting? But in clubs, after successful rounds in CS: GO, you can still beat your fists with your friends, almost like the stars of G2 Esports or Natus Vincere. Of course, there is always an option to call on Discord, but the live atmosphere is simply different. And the “stuffing” of computers in large clubs is often better than what many gamers can afford.
By the way, about the configuration
During the heyday of computer clubs, not all gamers had their own PC or internet connection, so they had to look for similar places to play. From the periphery, players were often greeted with “pot-bellied” monitors and keyboards that have seen a lot in their lifetime. The mouse pad was more of an unexpected and pleasant bonus than a must-have accessory.
Computers of the past could not boast of a rich inner world. Those who like to play all night long awaited Intel Pentium variations from I to III and 64 MB of RAM, modest by modern standards. In special cases, the computer could have a video card of the GeForce 200 series or even higher. But the main problem for clubs was created by technical progress, because in those days, iron could become obsolete in just one or two years.
Of course, the “stuffing” of the PC has changed over the past couple of decades, but the industry is not developing as actively as before. Now, if you wish, you can build a computer that will allow you to play in Full HD and 60 FPS for another five years. But one desire to create a dream is not enough, and another problem arises for all gamers – the cost of components. For me, for example, modern prices for video cards will have nightmares for a long time.
Not everyone can afford this luxury, so they just prefer to take a seat in the computer club. Visitors can now rely on a monitor with a diagonal of 23 inches and a resolution of Full HD and above, and many are installing monitors with a frequency of 144 Hz. The gamer will not be left without a keyboard, mouse with mat and headphones from manufacturers such as Razer, HyperX and others. Visitors to Colizeum can try the ASUS ROG STRIX SCOPE keyboard bundled with the ROG GLADIUS II Origin Mouse. As for the accessories, it differs from club to club. For example, VP.Bearloga computers at Yota Arena are equipped with Intel Core i7-6700 processors and 16GB of RAM. From video cards, the club uses GeForce GTX 1070 or ASUS DUAL-RTX2080. A good option to run Dota 2 at 240 FPS, isn’t it?
What can clubs offer?
Previously, computer clubs were a very popular place, they were attracted by the very presence of PCs and games. Single titles could be found somewhere, but they were not so popular. But almost all game libraries had a standard set: Quake, StarCraft, Counter-Strike, Diablo, Warcraft, and then Dota. Looking ahead, it is worth noting that the set of pre-installed games has not changed much over the years, except that PUBG, Apex Legends and other popular online titles have been added, and the old ones have simply been updated to the current versions.
The clubs were a gathering place for friends, as well as a small but atmospheric venue for various tournaments. Yes, they often raffled off several packs of “Kirieshek” and the opportunity to play for free, but such competitions still attracted people. To some extent, such “fun” tournaments became the beginning of the development of eSports throughout the country.
Modern computer clubs are not abandoning their legacy and continue to maintain public interest in various tournaments. Many regularly hold their own competitions, in which not soda cans are played, but real money, although during the pandemic some of the tournaments went online. Some computer clubs are becoming venues for LAN events of various sizes. It is at such competitions that young and talented players have the opportunity not only to earn the first prize money, but also to show their skills.
For those who want to feel like a real esports player (or become one), clubs began to offer training with professional players in various disciplines: in such classes, they not only improve their skills, but also teach new tactics, and also help to cope with stress and moral pressure. It’s a shame to lose an important tournament if your hands are shaking with fear!
But still, modern computer clubs differ from their predecessors not only in the characteristics of the PC and the scale of LAN tournaments. Unlike clubs in the 2000s, consoles began to appear more often in establishments, usually accompanied by an extremely cozy sofa. A great opportunity to enjoy a good fighting game on the big screen with friends. And with a snack in the clubs it became better: if earlier you had to hide chips and soda under a jacket in order to secretly have a snack during a night run in Diablo, now you can often see full-fledged cafes for visitors there. Of course, stuffing your cheeks in front of the monitor, scattering crumbs all over the keyboard, will not work, but you will not die of hunger during the important rink in Dota 2.
Another of the services that computer clubs offer is PC rental. After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of quarantine, club owners had to come up with new ways to make money in order to stay afloat. We have already talked about how computer clubs survived the first waves of the pandemic. The scheme is simple: you leave a deposit of at least RUB 20,000 and a copy of your passport, pay the rent, and in a few hours a powerful gaming PC with all the necessary peripherals will be brought to your home. A good solution both for the clubs themselves and for gamers who do not have a powerful computer or constant access to it.
Many of those who went to computer clubs in childhood or adolescence remember them with warmth and nostalgia. Of course, these soulful night marathons in Counter-Strike, a crowd of friends behind you and all the adventures associated with going to a game library in your hometown cannot be returned. But the clubs continue to work, develop and enjoy considerable popularity among gamers. And some people wonder what can be done there if all the same is available at home, on their own PC? However, computer clubs are still a place to relax in good company, where there is even an opportunity to prove yourself in a real tournament. Clubs are no longer a gathering place for geeks; they are a platform that gives you the opportunity to join esports and, perhaps, one day make it your profession.