Jackson, Tennessee, is a constantly changing and expanding city—with the many colleges and schools in the area, it also has an influx of a younger age group that calls Jackson home. With this younger crowd comes different and varying interests, along with new forms of entertainment.
Enter Alex Sanchez, competitive online gamer. Sanchez graduated from Union University in 2017 with a degree in business and an unstoppable vision to bring people together in Jackson under the banner of e-gaming.
He and his brother, Henry, liked to participate in all sorts of gaming growing up. With the rise of online gaming, certain games are known to have toxic communities (cyberbullying). Alex wanted to have a place where like-minded people could get together and game without fear of the toxic atmosphere. Hence their tagline, “Where gamers get social.”
E-Gamer’s Café officially opened their doors on August 12, 2017. In the months before their grand opening, they meticulously planned out and put together all of the technology they would need. It would appear that innovation is neon green, as the bright walls and contrasting black ceiling in E-Gamer’s Café excites gamers and help them to get focused. They have sixteen high-end computers (with 1070 ti graphics cards), 1 GB internet speed, and three stations with consoles such as the Xbox One, Wii U, and more.
“My brother and I were talking one day, and we both asked if we can just get a place where people can get together and actually see the person in front of them,” Sanchez said. “We both really like to game, but some games like League of Legends are known for having a very toxic community.”
League of Legends is an online multiplayer game where players can battle an opposing team to achieve a goal, such as destroying the opposing team’s nexus (the heart of their base). In many cases, the players of such popular games can be cruel to other players online, which breeds an environment of bad sportsmanship and conduct.
“The gaming culture [in Jackson] is bigger than I thought it was, and surprisingly humble,” Sanchez added. “The people that come through here are actual respectable people—I haven’t met a single person here who was rude to his fellow human.”
The café is designed with gamers in mind, but it is open to all who wish to give it a try. Not only are all ages welcome, but they want to shatter the stigma that comes with being interested in video and PC gaming. “We don't want people to be afraid of coming out—that's the thing; if I wasn’t a gamer I would ask if I really wanted to go out there with these people I don't know just to play games,” Alex said. “We want to help people break that barrier and be social with each other.”
A four-hour pass is $15, and an eight-hour pass is $25. If you want to play hourly, then it will be $7 an hour. There is now no rental fee for their equipment, and you are still free to bring your own!
The world of e-gaming and its fan base is growing larger each year. “[E-gaming] is basically a combination of console and PC gaming at a competitive level,” Alex said. “There are actual competitive teams like Cloud9 that have sponsorships from companies like Logitech, Redbull, HTC; Shaquille O'Neal even owns part of an e-sports team. Other professional athletes see the value of e-sports as the future; Olympics officials have even suggested making it an event in the future.
“You know”—Alex held up his hand, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips—“the population of California and Texas combined play League of Legends every month.” That’s just one competitive game out of many.
While this is more of a trend in other countries, Alex and Henry are hoping to bring more attention to the e-gaming platform and make the café a place where gamers get social. “Places like this are becoming very popular in Europe, and so we want to be the ones to help bring it to America and help this hobby branch out to the United States,” Alex said. The rise of e-gaming is happening now. In fact, many colleges are offering e-sports scholarships for gamers.
“We have the specs, and we have the equipment, so they can play and get their skills up. They can find a team that they can practice with. We want to be a hub for the community where they can host tournaments,” Alex said. “You know, we have a lot of universities around here like Jackson State, Union, Bethel, Memphis, where they have a lot of students that want to do things like this but don't necessarily have a space for it. We want to open ourselves up to them for that purpose. We would just really like to bring the community together to play and to help them raise their skill level.”
Not only are the brothers pioneering a new place of entertainment in Jackson, but they are adding a bit of their heritage to the mix in the form of food. “We wanted to do something more than the old style type of concession stand. A lot of gaming cafés just have drinks and a candy bar,” Alex said. “My brother and I are Cuban, and there is no huge Cuban restaurant here, so we'll just bring a little Cuban to Jackson.”
Haven’t played video games before? That’s alright—they’ll help you out! Take a day to have some fun and eat some delicious food. They’d love to have you. If there is ever a reason to #stay731, it is for the people in Jackson like Alex and Henry Sanchez who strive to bring diversity and life to the city.
Sarah Zornes decided that she needed to be around books all of the time, and currently works as the Evening Circulation Supervisor in the library at Union University. She consumes entirely too much coffee, and is always looking to expand her mug collection. In her spare time, she enjoys e-gaming, writing fiction, adventuring with friends, and being active. She and her husband Tim live in Jackson with their two Dachshund-Beagle mixes, Amelia and Frejya.
Kristi Woody is a photographer and storyteller for our Hello Jackson features about locally owned retail stores and restaurants. She also works as the university photographer for Union University and owns her own wedding photography business, Woody & Pearl Photography. In her free time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her husband and rambunctious beagle, Rhett and Chipper respectively. If you can't find Kristi in Jackson, you'll find her in her second favorite place: Disney World!