Getting to know other first-year students while jumping around and kicking in th air, strapped into a harness with a pair of VR glasses on. This can be done during the Active Esports Competition. “A great alternative for the introduction period”, says Peter Kortenhoeven, creative director and co-founder of the Eindhoven start-up PWXR (formerly known as Pillow’s Willow). From September on, students – “not just first-year students, by the way” – will be able to take part in the innovative competition in groups of eight to ten.
Entertainment for all
PWXR developed the active e-sports game ‘Exodus Burned.’ A game that four people play, but one which is entertaining for spectators too. There are lighting effects, the audience can follow what the players see on screens, and a Master of Ceremony gives live commentary on what is happening.
The players’ own bodies are the game’s controllers thanks to a special harness and VR glasses. Two teams of two people compete against each other in a virtual world. Each person inside their own separate space of two by two meters. They jump, kick, dive and dodge lasers or try to hit objects that are flying around. As well as one winning team per round, there is also an individual winner. Each round lasts about fifteen minutes.
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Preparing for a grand finale
The student competition is made up of several competitions, which the students play from September through to November. The number of matches depends on the registrations and the dates, Kortenhoeven explains. “We are preparing for a grand final where it’s all about the best team and the best player.” The creative director also wants to stream the matches with augmented reality. “Then people outside the arena will be able to see the virtual images that the players see. We will have a wider reach that way as well.”
A battle between schools
Players register as individuals or as a team made up of two to ten people. If a player registers as an individual, they are assigned a random teammate, “a kind of blind date for students.” Kortenhoeven also envisages a battle between the various schools. Kortenhoeven: “I now read Harry Potter to my daughter. Different houses are competing against each other there as well. How great would it be if we could do something like that in Eindhoven with the help of technology and innovation?”
“Of course, it’s very annoying that people can’t just get together and discover the city during the customary introduction week. But, curiously enough, it does offer us an opportunity.”
Last February was the grand opening of the Active Esports Arena. “The arena is intended to showcase the overall product range together with our partners (PSV, Sportscloud, TripleDouble Sportsmarketing, and Philips Displays, ed.). It was so innovative for a lot of people that they couldn’t even begin to imagine what it looks like. In the arena, it really is a case of Playing is believing.”
At the opening, two players from the Dutch PSV women’s football team played against two PSV e-sports players. Visitors also got to play the game. “What we primarily want to do is show that an arena like this can be easily set up somewhere else, for example, at a leisure center. It is not our goal to staff them ourselves. We want to make gaming a social experience and get people exercising.”
“After the official opening, it all looked very promising. That was two weeks before corona hit like a bomb,” Kortenhoeven recalls. The bookings started to roll in and there were plans to start at the Papendal sports center [the premium Dutch sports facilities for elite athletes, ed]. A leisure center in Breda and a top European football club also signed up. Due to corona, everything was put on hold, Kortenhoeven adds. There were still a few activities, so KPN used PWXR as a promotion for 5G. “To give an impression of what gaming will look like in the future.”
It has not quite come to the envisaged kick-off of the Active Esports Arena. Not even in June, when the arena was allowed to reopen. That was just before the start of the vacation period, Kortenhoeven explains, “The momentum we had just after the opening was gone then. But we are having encouraging conversations again with leading parties in the sports and gaming world. We definitely have a bright future ahead of us.”
The original plan to host groups of twenty people with a snack and a drink does not meet the corona measures. But hosting smaller groups in a shorter period of time does. This is how the idea arose to start a competition for students that strives to find the best team and the best player. A great alternative for the first-year students’ introduction, according to Kortenhoeven. Besides being actively engaged with each other, he wants to show students the added value of this region.
“We are one example of how you can grow as a start-up in this region. I can talk about that. It might even be a bit inspiring.” PWXR works closely with students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Fontys and has the PSV football club as a partner. What’s more, the start-up received investment from LUMO Labs in Eindhoven and a subsidy from the Leisure Development Fund Brabant (LOF) to help set up the arena.
Kortenhoeven is still looking for attractive deals. One example would be if a student could book the arena for themselves with an overnight stay at the Student Hotel. Kortenhoeven sees all kinds of possibilities with PSV as a partner.
You can register for the Active Esports Competition at https://activeesportsarena.nl/studentdays/nl. The competition runs from September to November and scheduled match days are Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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