Gaming lounge offers a comfortable atmosphere for gamers to compete

Chris Miller, Reporter

Prolab Gaming is a gaming lounge and retail store that brings gamers of all types together in Bakersfield and provides a place for gamers in the area to meet each other and partake in heated tournaments.

There is a $5 cover charge to play in the arcade, but spectators don’t have to pay anything. This charge, as well as any sales and charges for the many services the store offers, are the main sources of income for the store since tournament entry fees go directly back to the players.

One of the offered services is the ability to pay for private play sessions on the many consoles and games offered there at the store by the hour. The charge for the first hour is $4 and it is $3.50 every hour after.

There is also a $40 monthly pass available for purchase for those who come in and use the private play session regularly. That allows the pass holder to come into the store and use the consoles as long as they want for the month they paid for.

ProLab Gaming will soon begin to offer a service for small time Twitch streamers to come and use the store’s consoles and streaming equipment to stream to their own personal Twitch account for a small fee.

Twitch is a streaming site that allows gamers to stream live-feed footage of the videogames they are playing.

The lounge also hosts private birthday parties and meet-ups for groups of all sizes.

Many of the people who come to ProLab Gaming do so to participate in the many tournaments held at the lounge.

The gaming tournaments frequently held consist of Super Smash Bros. 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Project M., and Super Smash Bros for WiiU. However, there is a possibility for Smite tournaments in the future.

Tournaments are organized weekly and split up into two-day events. Weekly tournaments are organized by either the Fighting Game community or the Super Smash Bros. community, respectively.

There is a tournament entry fee of $5 for each tournament a player wishes to participate in. All of the entry fees go to a prize pool that is distributed to the top 3 winners for the particular tournament the entrants signed up for. Tournaments are also streamed to the store’s Twitch account.

Chris Guillen, 26, is the owner and founder of ProLab Gaming. Guillen first started organizing tournaments for Street Fighter 4 at Skyworld. Despite Skyworld falling under, he continued to organize tournaments in his own apartment complex and garage due to the positive feedback and demand for tournaments. Over time, he found a private investor who helped him buy a building, which he turned into the ProLab Gaming.

On top of organizing tournaments for others, Guillen has been going to tournaments himself for a very long time and is a sponsored Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 player. He is also a professional Twitch streamer who often makes the trip to Fresno, LA, and Las Vegas to stream. Guillen produces very high quality streams and because of that, he and his streaming crew are often hired to stream for Level Up Live.

Guillen is driven to help out the community. One of his main reasons for opening up ProLab Gaming was to provide a place for gamers to meet as well as make it easier for them to participate in the competitive scene.

“The fighting game community is notorious for being vicious and it’s hard for a newcomer to feel welcomed,” he said. “I wanted to be friendly to the community and help grow Bakersfield’s competitive scene.”

Guillen said that the general feedback for his store and how tournaments are organized there has been very positive. It’s been so positive, that players from out of town will make the trip to Bakersfield just to participate in the tournaments at ProLab Gaming. There’s even a friendly rivalry between the players from Bakersfield and those from Fresno.

Guillen has been getting the word out about his store and the tournaments via word of mouth, streaming, social media, and KRAB Radio advertisements. He’s also been attempting to gather consistent sponsors for the tournaments held at his store to create bigger prize pools and draw in more participants but has been unable to do so as of yet.

Justin Rivera, 23, is a tournament organizer and streamer for ProLab Gaming. He hosts Smash Bros. tournaments bi-weekly and provides new ideas for ProLab Gaming so it can continue to grow and improve. He also serves as a community leader and will help with events being hosted by ProLab Gaming when the help is needed, as well as advertise the store on his own streams and through word of mouth and social media.

Rivera heard about ProLab Gaming and met Guillen through social media. He and Guillen share similar views about the gaming community and work together to help make ProLab Gaming grow.

“I wanted to help provide players with a location and events that I wished existed when I was younger,” he said.

Rivera has been playing Smash Bros. since the original game came out on the Nintendo 64. He has since attended many tournaments and loves to stream to his own personal Twitch channel.

Blake Gordon, 28, is an avid attendee of the many tournaments hosted at ProLab Gaming. He participates in the Smash Bros. 64 tournaments and usually places 2nd or 3rd.

“I heard about ProLab Gaming when I was in history class and saw a guy with an anime lanyard on and I asked if he played Smash. The guy got really excited and told me about ProLab Gaming. He took me along one day to play. I’ve been going there for over a year now,” he said.

Gordon says there are about 50 people who show up to participate in the tournaments on a consistent basis. He thinks the venue is very comfortable and enjoys the fact that it doesn’t get too packed inside.