It’s no secret that we Aussies love football and video games. So, it makes sense that the two worlds have finally collided!

We expect our hard working footy players to train and bond together, after all, it’s teamwork that makes the dream work. Since competitive esports is a fast growing industry in Australia, should we expect the same from our professional gamers as well?

To get some insight into the Bombers Esports and their gaming houses, we spoke with Nathan Mathews-Mallia, the Head of Esports for the Essendon Football Club.

It’s an obvious question to ask – why exactly do professional gamers need a gaming house? Why can’t they just game from home or at an internet cafe?

For many years that’s exactly what pro gamers have done: since the early 2000s, gaming tournaments have been held either online or at internet cafes in Australia.

For the MOBA game League of Legends (released in 2009), the fan-organised tournaments began in 2011.

The company Riot Games created the ‘Oceanic Pro League’ in 2015, and its popularity has grown immensely since then.

The OPL filming studio is located in Sydney near Darling Harbour, so every weekend each team is required to travel to the studio for the games. Flying up and down every weekend is the norm for teams located outside of NSW. This includes the Bombers as they train in the multi-million dollar Melbourne facility known as The Hangar.
Five players, a coach and team manager all flying up and down separately would be a total nightmare.

On top of this, the quality of internet connection is of utmost importance and location can’t be controlled when players live outside of a gaming house.

As you can imagine, there are a few logistics to work out before a gaming house can be acquired.

The top four, according to Mathews-Mallia, are location, size, internet and price.

Location of the gaming house is extremely important and there a lot of considerations to take into account: the distance to the filming studio, airport and local facilities. For the Bombers, living near the Hangar was paramount in their search for houses.

The size of the house is also another factor. Mathews-Mallia’s philosophy is one person per room. Understandably, six or seven bedroom houses can be expensive and many other teams have opted for players to share rooms.

Access to the NBN (Optic Fibre Internet) is essential. As much publicised, the NBN hasn’t been rolled out right across the country, so that adds complexity to finding a suitable location.

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Naturally, price is a big concern. Most teams are operating on very strict budgets and the cost of running the gaming house is one of the biggest expenses.
Currently, renting is the best option, as all the teams opt for this over buying. With the unpredictability and relative infancy of the esports industry, organisations aren’t prepared to invest in property at this stage.

Currently, the Bombers Esports have two gaming houses – a first in Australia. House one is occupied by Nathan Mathews-Mallia, three players and a dog. The second house accommodates two players and the coach.

Living with six young adult boys certainly has its challenges – especially considering it’s the first time out of home for many of the players. When there’s no mum to nag you into cleaning your dishes, who actually does them? And what happens when they don’t get done?

If you think gaming houses are luxurious, with cleaners, maids and a chef, that’s more the American dream; in Australia, the budgets are much tighter.

According to Mathews-Mallia, each player is randomly assigned a chore each week and will dedicate some time in their busy schedule to complete it.

For fun, the team occasionally play board games and the winner gets a week off cleaning duty, or gets to pick their chore for the week.

“This is now my third year living in a gaming house and I have to say it has been one of the best experiences in my life,” says Mathews-Mallia. “I have been extremely fortunate to have met some really great people and have had the pleasure of watching some of these players grow as individuals over the years.

“We don’t really need to add anything else to our houses; thanks to the Hangar facilities we have access to an enormous gym with state of the art equipment, indoor pools, ovals and indoor courts.

“One of the best aspects about living in a gaming house is the fact you are living with like-minded people that share the same goal. We are all gamers and we all want to win.”

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An average day schedule for the players

MONDAY-THURSDAY
9:30 – 10am: Wake up, eat breakfast and walk to the training facilities by 10:30am.
10:30 – 11am: The team and coach will go over the plan for the day and discuss the strategy that will be employed in the practice matches.
11am – 2pm: The players will play three online practice matches (referred to as ‘scrims’) with another team competing in the OPL. After each game is completed, the team, along with their coach, will review the replay of the game and identify the mistakes made and will implement a system to avoid making the same mistakes again.
2pm – 3:30pm: Free time/a lunch break for the team before repeating the same process as above from 3:30pm to 6:30pm.
The players will also do sessions with the club’s dietician, sports psychologists, neuroscientists, fitness and conditioning coaches. On top of this, they will take part in media obligations and help produce content for the club.
6:30pm onwards: After scrims finish, it’s time to use the gym before heading home to a freshly cooked dinner. Once dinner is done, it’s free time and most of the players will use this opportunity to practice independently or wind down from a tough day of practice.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY
Early morning flights for the team to Sydney, as they play their OPL matches on these days, and head home Saturday night.

SUNDAY
A day off!

Nathan Mathews-Mallia’s average day

  • Waking up early and ensuring the players get out of bed before practice, and walking with the team to the Hangar.
  • During team practice, booking flights and accommodation for the week’s OPL match, working with the club’s social media, video and graphics team to produce Bombers content.
  • Organise activities for the players and do the weekly shopping for the team.
  • If time permits, watch the team practice and make sure all of the needs of the players are being met.

After a hard day’s work, what does Nathan Mathews-Mallia get up to in his free time?

“I don’t get much free time,” he laughs. “Esports can be a 24/7 job and there has been multiple instances of players waking me up at 3am to discuss a bad day or ask for help to use the oven.

“Most of my free time occurs during the off-season and I will try and spend as much time as I can with my partner and dog.”

You can see the Bombers take flight in their weekly OPL matches on Twitch. Check out the schedule here