A local Kettering business is changing how people see and play video games, for young and old gamers alike.
Vyral Esports Compound at 2078 E. Dorothy Lane in Kettering does everything from tournaments and helping aspiring content creators set up their streaming careers, to providing a place for kids and adults to hang out and play board and computer games.
Owners Chris Jurgens and Austin Martin started Vyral online as a PC building company out of their garages and basements, and still do live PC builds. After uploading videos of their rigs on TikTok and Instagram and going viral (pun intended), the shop is up to putting out roughly 100 computer systems per month, handling requests from all over the world.
“We do a lot of celebrity builds, a lot of brand deals,” Jurgens said.
Vyral has done brand PCs for the clothing line Supreme, and a Squid Game themed PC for Netflix. They also built a simulated racing system for NASCAR driver Hailie Deegan.
“We built her a PC to go with her sim racing rig, and then we went down to North Carolina and installed into her house,” he said.
Vyral also holds tournaments every weekend and throughout the week with high schools, colleges and for casual play. Their esports arena holds 40 custom PCs that can run modern games on the highest settings.
Wright State and Ohio State esports teams have competed on their tournament stage, and local high schools, including Farmont, Alter, and others use the space to practice and compete.
Jurgens and Martin met playing the original Halo, back when multiplayer meant having to physically take their gaming consoles to each other’s houses, plugging them all in and drinking too much Mountain Dew, Jurgens said. However, that same spirit is what keeps kids coming back to Vyral, even after they’ve bought their own gaming rigs at home, he said.
“It’s really eye-opening to see people buy computers from us for $5,000, take them home, and be back here the next day playing with their friends,” he said. “They have a brand new computer at home and they’re still wanting to game next to one another, and hoot and holler and communicate and strategize. A lot of kids don’t realize that they need or missed it until they come in here.”
The video game publishing industry in recent years has moved away from so-called “couch co-op,” multiplayer games that people can play on a split screen in the same room. Most recently, the revived ‘Halo Infinite,’ developed by Microsoft-owned 343 Industries, announced last September that it was scrapping its couch co-op feature, to focus on the game’s live-service online multiplayer.
For this and other reasons, a lot of young gamers that pass through Vyral’s doors have never played video games with other people the same room.
“Some of these guys have never experienced gaming next to one another,” Martin said. “When you’ve got ten kids sitting in row all playing Fortnite, it’s like they found a ticket to the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.”
The same benefits apply to the competitive scene, Martin said.
“For strategic and high level competition, you can communicate through a microphone, but if you have your whole team in the same arena, it’s a game changer,” he said.
The next step for Vyral is building out their sim racing room, where huge, sophisticated rigs simulate what it’s like to drive a racecar on simulated courses from around the world. Some people use them to train for high-level racing competition on the world’s most complicated courses. Others use them to learn how to drive a stick shift.
Whatever comes after that is both inspired and driven by Vyral’s community, the gamers of all ages who continue to come back through their doors.
“We want this place to be their third home or whatever it may be. We’re just here to learn with them and grow with them too, so that’s the fun part,” Jurgens said.
Inside esports series
This story is part of a three-part series on how the national growth of esports is impacting our region. Read other parts of the series this week in your paper, your ePaper or on our website.
Sunday - How local kids and businesses are getting in on the multi-billion dollar esports industry
Today - How one local business is outfitting the next generation of gamers
Tuesday - The growth of high school esports programs
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