Localhost gaming cafe offers St. Louis community a place to play and compete

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Localhost, a gaming cafe located in the Brentwood Promenade, aims to get gamers out of their homes and into creating a community.

“I want people who have a day off and want to chill at home to play video games, instead to want to go to Localhost because their friends are here,” Localhost venue manager, Andre Cooper said. “That’s really my goal moving forward.”

Localhost officially became a part of the St. Louis community in October 2020, becoming one of eight establishments in the nation. Due to the pandemic, however, Localhost had to close its doors.

During this time, Cooper built the community through social media. The cafe then reopened in February 2021 and Cooper was finally able to bring the online community back to Localhosts’ keyboards, mice and controllers.

Localhost gaming cafe provides gamers with a relaxing, inclusive environment in the Brentwood. Photo by Jordan Parker.

When guests walk into the building, they are met with staff who get them ready to game. Visitors can access an hour of game time on either one of the over 30 professional-grade gaming computers or one of the several PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X or Nintendo Switch consoles available for $5. While consoles are outnumbered by PCs, Cooper said the decision is intentional.

“We provide something that a lot of people don’t have access to because most people don’t have $2,000 to spend on a gaming computer at home,” Cooper said. “But a lot of people have consoles.”

According to a survey report done by the Morning Consult in 2021, 41% of U.S. gamers play on consoles, whereas 29% play on PCs. The discrepancy in the user base comes from the difference in affordability and accessibility. A dedicated gaming PC can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000, whereas the average console costs between $400 to $500.

While the Localhost brand gears itself toward esports, Cooper said the spot is for both serious competitors and casual gamers alike. On the casual side, Localhost serves as an accessible venue for anyone with a general interest in video gaming. The business offers summer camps and options to rent the space for birthday parties, school clubs and teams to host events.

The spot also provides a place for those in-between hard times.

Brandon Arneson, a frequent Localhost attendee, made the decision to sell his PlayStation 5 to support his family. In between dropping his children off at daycare in the morning and having to go to work early in the afternoon, Arneson has a pocket of time where he can come in and play Apex Legends.

“When there’s a lot of stuff going on behind closed doors, I can come here and do my own thing,”  Arneson said. “I love the fact that I can just come here and just kind of shut out the world.”

For competitive players, Localhost provides the opportunity for gamers to test their mettle through its club esports program, sponsored tournaments and community-ran events.

The club esports program is a 13-week offering the business hosts in the fall, where children ages 9 to 13 meet twice a week for 90 minutes. During this time, players will practice in specific E-rated games. Eventually, they will face off against players from other Localhost locations.

At the end of their circuit, Localhost hopes that their players learn the value of teamwork, integrity, communication, and leadership.

The Brentwood location puts on monthly sponsored tournaments for “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CSGO), “Madden NFL 22” and “Valorant” where money is on the line. On May 14, the Fragadelphia Counter-Strike: Global Offensive $2,500 LAN tournament, sponsored by FTX US, a cryptocurrency trading company, makes its return.

Localhost team member, Jabari Cope, reminisced on what it is like to be present at one of these events.

“Every single computer in here was full,” Cope said. “We had spectators watching and screaming at each other … the energy was just buzzing. It was crazy.”

On certain days throughout the week, different gaming communities have nights dedicated to them. The Super Smash Bros. community, which is one of the bigger gaming communities in the St. Louis area, comes out on Mondays at 5 p.m. to hold a tournament that counts toward the players’ power rankings within the scene.

Dublin McGowan, a competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player has had a shift in values ever since attending the weekly tournaments.

“Before Localhost, I mainly felt like a competitor and not much else,” McGowan said, “but as I started to go there more and more, helping build a Smash event over time with Andre and a couple of people I’d call good friends now, it’s made me way less reclusive than I was before.”

While Localhost has become home for different gaming scenes here in St. Louis, growth remains the number one priority for the future.

“Community is the most important thing in our lives,” Cooper said. “Having people that are all in the same space as you, doing something that you enjoy just makes that really easy and fun.”

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