Online, Virtual Games Escape the New Reality

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A few blocks from downtown, inside a building with a brick and stucco facade, two men were immersed in an e-sports event, one of the safer competitions remaining in a sporting world upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

The men — Tyler Mercer, 24, and Chris Caldwell, 23 — call themselves Killer Instinct for online video gaming purposes, and they were at Newnan Esports on March 21 playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Six teams were competing, though the other teams were playing from homes nearby.

Hayden Marlowe, the owner of Newnan Esports, opened his business so Mercer and Caldwell, the reigning champions, would have access to the fast internet speeds that gaming demands. The two live in rural Pike County, Ga., where their bandwidth isn’t as snappy as it is in Newnan, a town of nearly 40,000 about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Though not mandated to, Marlowe closed his store on March 16 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Atlanta’s stay at home order went into effect on March 24, and other cities in Georgia have followed suit.

“We don’t want to be the reason why people get sick,” Marlowe said. “We want everyone to be healthy and heed government warnings when they’re warranted.”

He added: “We also have the capability to not have to be here. E-sports has the ability to be played online, and you can organize through many apps that are available on the internet.”

Though e-sports can be played from nearly anywhere in the world, Marlowe markets his company and tournaments to those living within a 50-mile radius of his store. See more at the NYT.

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