A rendering of what the gaming arena for the new High Score Esports venue at The Hawk will look like.
FARMINGTON HILLS — A new parks and recreation amenity hoping to spark teamwork and camaraderie has been announced for Farmington Hills’ new community center, The Hawk.
After striking a partnership with High Score Esports of Ferndale, the city will be creating a brand-new, approximately 3,000-square-foot, esports venue on the third floor of the community center.
High Score Esports co-founder Nathaniel McClure said the pairing of his company and the city was a strategic partnership that included shared costs to build and market the space, as well as shared revenues from the space.
The Hawk community center will be open and available for free, but programming for the esports venue will come with nominal fees based on individual activities.
Farmington Hills Special Services Deputy Director Bryan Farmer said the desire to bring esports to the community came from wanting to stay ahead of the trend when it came to the center’s offerings.
With the rise of games like “Fortnite,” “League of Legends,” and “Overwatch” — to name just a few — and streaming platforms like Twitch, the esports industry has risen to the mainstream at breakneck speeds. While competitive gaming is nothing new, said McClure, who was playing “Call of Duty” competitively in the early 2000s, the evolution of the industry since the turn of the millennium has propelled it into the spotlight.
The difference maker, McClure said, has been the billions of dollars of investment into developing and publishing, and more importantly, advertising and sponsorships.
According to data by NewZoo, a global provider of games and esports analytics, the industry earned a combined revenue of $950.3 million in 2020, with roughly $584.1 million of that coming from sponsorships alone. Publishing fees, merchandise and tickets, and streaming each grossed $108.9 million, $52.5 million and $19.9 million, respectively.
Not only have more players invested in the sport, but the industry’s audience growth has seen major upswings that don’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. A whopping 495 million people combined were labeled as esports enthusiasts and/or occasional viewers. That number is expected to rise to 646 million by 2023.
Farmer knows that despite the industry’s global growth, some in Farmington Hills may be skeptical or hesitant, questioning if the addition to The Hawk will promote the inactivity of children and teens. He believes it will promote socialization instead, and help kids get out of their basement to interact with others in a physical space together.
“When we talk about esports in a facility, and a community facility in particular, it takes that child out of their bedroom, basement or living room and engages them with the community,” McClure said. “Now they have social interactions with their peers, and now they’re exposed to all the other ancillary things that come with the community center. The kid may see the pool and want to try out swimming lessons.
“The social and community engagement is a huge piece of this pie to not only engage our players, but to get the naysayers involved and on board.”
McClure argued that some parents, including him, are willing to invest thousands of dollars for their children to play traditional sports, but the buck usually stops there, so he tries to establish the sports’ parallels, such as teamwork, coachability, learning to be a good winner and loser, building a competitive nature, setting goals, and the dedication to practice.
Beyond these benefits, Farmer added that some colleges are now offering esports scholarships, children have an opportunity to make money playing professionally, and by nature of the topic, it promotes a science, technology, engineering and math mindset that may lead kids to be interested in software development or video game designing.
“It’s not like people need to be gaming all the time, that’s for sure, but to break down those stigmas, to break down the lazy gamer or the bum image,” he said. “This is just a fun hobby that some people can turn into a quite lucrative living, but a lot of people can enjoy for their entire lives.”
The new esports venue won’t just be a space for gaming, either. McClure and Farmer explained other helpful programming — such as teaching parents what esports is, in-game safety and how to set that up; and a chance for the kids to teach their parents how to play — will also be rolling out, likely starting in the fall.
The goal of the new space, McClure said, is to create a cost-effective environment where kids can try out competitive gaming for the first time, play with and compete against others with the same skill level, and ultimately pursue their passion.
“The regional attraction is that a lot of people are going to realize how cool this place is and that they can come to Farmington Hills and participate at this venue,” Farmer added. “Having this esports venue in a community center, you feel more like you can go check it out and not feel like you need to know what you’re doing already.”
The Hawk is slated to open in May, with programming and other offerings rolling out as COVID-19 allows.
For more information, visit fhgov.com.