Food orders are called out over the speakers, drinks are picked up at the bar and eyes turn to the large screen on the wall, as the Super Smash Bros. Tournament is about to begin.
Each Tuesday and Thursday night, hundreds gather at the Folsom Street Foundry in San Francisco for “SF Game Nights,” hosted by the entertainment company Showdown Entertainment.
Guests can bring their own card and board games to play in a designated table area; enjoy a round of beer pong conveniently located a few steps away from the bar; or test their skills at one of the numerous video games available on-hand — all in one loft-like space.
Showdown started hosting its game nights in February 2014 and is already looking to expand to two new locations.
CJ Scaduto, president and co-founder of Showdown, said by the end of April, games nights similar to the set-up at the Foundry will be held at South First Billiards near San Jose State University, as well as in its own undisclosed facility space.
Game nights, and Showdown Entertainment itself, started as Scaduto’s brain-child inspired by his youth.
“I was the kid in high school that had all the video games consoles that all the buddies came and played … but I drove my parents nuts because all my friends were there,” Scaduto said.
After years of hashing out the idea for an entertainment company that could serve as a turn-key solution to bring gamers together in one social location — and a partnership with the video game live-streaming company Twitch.tv — game nights was born.
“Alcohol and video games is not very special, but what is special is the team that’s been able to execute it,” Scaduto said.
While the general atmosphere of game nights is casual fun, there are still opportunities for more skilled players to walk away with cash at the end of the night.
Each game night, there is a prize pool collected that goes home with the winner of the night’s tournament, which is broadcasted over Showdown’s channels on Twitch.tv. The prize value varies, though it can amount to $300 to $400 in one night.
Scaduto added that Showdown will host special game tournaments down the line with prizes worth up to $1,000. In addition, they will host an eight-week-long tournament where the grand prize is an all-expense paid trip to participate in the Evolution Championship Series — one of the largest video game tournaments — in Las Vegas this July.