People gather at a 20,000-capacity stadium on the banks of the Yangtze River in China. Tensions and excitement rise as the tournament begins, but this is not sport as we know it. There are no athletes or footballers. Instead, professional video gamers are sitting down, practically motionless, battling their hearts out to the deafening roar of crowds watching the animated action on huge screens.
Welcome to the world of eSports, and the custom-built Zhongxian stadium. Opened earlier this year, the gleaming venue seats 7,000 people and features glass walls with LED screens projecting video displays for those gathered outdoors.
“I wanted a design that reflects the energy of these events,” says Barrie Ho, the man behind the stadium, which encompasses futuristic aesthetics, functionality, and cultural references. This is evident in the building’s shape—an inverse yin-yang symbol with wings extending from both sides of the arena, catering to a further 13,000 people on top of those seated inside.
Described as “internet cafes for the next generation,” eSports stadiums, though not long out of the development stage, are forecast to be big business. This is especially true in China, the largest gaming market in the world, with its thriving eSports scene that brought over USD100 million in revenue last year, according to market research firm Newzoo.
Further creating buzz at Zhongxian are the on-site incubators for gaming startups, due to open later this year. Incubation—custom-designed spaces for multiple startups—is something Barrie Ho and his firm, BARRIE HO Architecture (BHA), have been focusing on lately; a