The rise of eSports has been meteoric. World eSport championships now fill Olympic-sized stadiums, while hordes of dedicated fans stream footage of competitive gaming, all over the world.
Lachlan McAllister’s love of gaming is second only to his knowledge of the Melbourne bar scene. He’s previously co-owned Lily Blacks, Mr Wow’s Emporium and Pixel Alley. As an avid gamer, and an early follower of eSports – namely League of Legends World Championships – he’s wanted to open something like his new bar, GG EZ, for a long time.
“There’s been a groundswell, and people’s ideas have changed,” McAllister explains. “Now, we can do this. We’re catering to current eSports fans, by giving them a place to meet and watch these things. But we’re also drawing in those people who are curious.”
GG EZ is Australia’s first dedicated eSports bar, offering fans a slick place to watch competitive gaming, discuss strategy and enjoy a drink.
The eSports shift from the realm of self-organised, multiplayer video game tournaments to stadium events can be attributed to huge new sponsors such as McDonalds, Gillette and Red Bull, and mainstream sports interest. For example, owners of American sporting teams have seen potential there, with NBA teams including the Sacramento Kings and the Philadelphia 76ers having purchased eSports teams. Indiana Tech and University of California, Irvine, are now offering full student scholarships for places on their varsity eSports programs. Here in Australia, the AFL is taking its first strides into the industry. The Adelaide Crows recently acquired Legacy eSports (Australia’s League of Legends champions), and the GWS Giants are looking to make a similar move.
“I don’t think the difference between sport and gaming is that big,” McAllister says. “We watch them for the same reason. You want to see something you’ve experienced, and you want to see it done in the best way possible. Because you have that frame of reference for the kind of skill it takes to play that at the best level.
“At the end of the day, we all just appreciate excellence. That’s what fandom is.”
McAllister and wife Justine designed the underground space. A long pine bar reproduces the communality of an American sports bar, but one sharpened by a tech-y edge. Red and blue neon bounce brightly off concrete walls, in a nod to the post-apocalyptic bunkers that have forever been a trope in game design. A giant mural of D.Va, the beloved hero from Overwatch, keeps a protective eye over the space.
A number of the cocktails are a tribute to bubble tea, and include the EZ CUP, with vodka, black Assam tea, house-made honey dew and cantaloupe syrup with mango popping pearls. The eSpresso CUP is essentially a bubble-tea Espresso Martini (a caffeine kick might be needed for some of the prolonged League of Legends World Championships). You’ll find Coors and Samuel Adams Boston Lager on tap, with local bottle option from 4 Pines, Kona, Omission and Stone & Wood. In summer, GG EZ will be slinging frosé.
The kitchen serves mainly Korean fare – a nod to South Korea’s dominance of international eSports. There are helpings of kimchi fries, dolloped with gochujang mayo, and Korean barbeque burritos. The LA beef kalbi burger is the most popular item on the menu, layered with smoked bacon, American cheddar, pickled red onions and aioli. McAllister laughs as he gazes over the menu.
“It’s not the healthiest food, but we are a sports bar after all.”
GG EZ’s opening comes at a pivotal moment in the Australian eSports community. What was once dismissed as a nerdy niche is now a billion-dollar industry. GG stands for Good Game, and EZ is a phoneticism of easy – it’s a cheeky, bad-mannered slight to someone you’ve just crushed in an online multiplayer match. But there’s no bad blood here. It’s a place for fans of online gaming to meet, offline, over a shared passion and a jug of Coors.
Sunday to Monday 5pm–late
Fri and Sat 5pm–3am