White exteriors and a massive jamun tree standing in its courtyard — at first glance, VGS – Esports looks like one of the many quaint bungalows that dot Bandra’s Pali Naka neighbourhood in Mumbai.
However, follow the youngsters waiting their turn and one finds oneself in the groovy interiors of a gaming parlour. The space is dimly lit with purple lights and action figures in fluorescent colours give it a futuristic vibe.
After console gaming, with PlayStation and Xbox, started to gain popularity, PC gaming in the cities took a beating. The concept, which was peaking in the ’90s, slowly started to become obscure, with gaming parlours mostly turning into shady spaces. However, VGS – Esports evidently defies that norm. The two-storied space, which is a little over a year old, sees a footfall upwards of 100 every day.
Equipped to accommodate 30 gamers at a time, the parlour has a loyal audience that its owner Navab Alam says, is increasing by the day, so much so that VGS – Esports remains open 24 hours. “Apart from the cost, one massive edge that PC gaming has over PlayStation and Xbox is that it can allow for a community experience,” he says, adding, “The vibe in this place is created by 30 people playing at the same time, which in effect creates a parallel universe.” Alam charges Rs 60-80 per hour for PC games and Rs 150 an hour for the handful of PlayStation he has installed in the space. There is a discount for booking the PCs for a longer duration.
Raunaq Telreja, 22, a mass media student who is a regular here, seconds Alam. “I have a PlayStation at home but I come here when I want to enjoy some banter with friends and spend long hours gaming,” he says. Krish Jain, 15, is among those who also regularly participate in gaming tournaments that VGS – ESports hosts every month.
However, most people visit VGS for a game called Fortnite. Known as a “first-person shooter”, it is a multiplayer game that can accommodate up to 100 participants. “All gamers are connected to each other on headsets during the game and can interact with one another throughout as if they are a part of the Fortnite’s gaming universe,” Alam explains. It helps that the 29-year-old, who co-owns the space with his two brothers, has invested heavily for top-of-the-line equipment, spending close to Rs 1.35 lakh for each PC.
Having opened his first gaming parlour at the age of 15 in 2003 in Dadar, Alam has seen the world of gaming transform over the years. They are now looking to open their third such space in Khar.