On Thursday, 3 May 2018 I was at PZE Bar inside Bankstown Sports Club, to see the weekly Tekken 7 tournament. The vibe was one of friendly and casual gaming where competition was enjoyable and where, despite the $250 in cash prizes, participants placed camaraderie and sportsmanship above winning.

PZE Bar is on the right after walking up the carpeted stairs with metal filigree. Pretty swanky. It used to be a piano bar after all.

GG, “good game”, that classic gamer phrase, summed up what I experienced at PZE Bar’s Tekken tournament. No sore losers. No bad winners. Just people who shared a common interest, respected each other, and didn’t take themselves too seriously whilst still taking their sport seriously (you can tell because a number of them brought their own arcade sticks).

You can bring your own arcade stick. If you didn’t, that’s fine; the PZE Bar staff can set you up with an Xbox controller.

PZE Bar is spacious and open with a lounge overflow area, which overlooks an impressive indoor Rainforest. The bar is full-service with beer on tap and the usual assortment of beverages, and if you’re after something a little more crafty, there’s Basement Brewhouse downstairs which has its own microbrewery and a range of unique beers.

View from PZE Bar overlooking the indoor rainforest. There’s a waterfall too behind the rainforest.

Being the first dedicated eSports bar of its kind in Western Sydney, I took a moment to sit down and chat with Jason Klippel, Bankstown Sports Club’s Digital Entertainment & AV Manager, to learn more about PZE Bar.

Gamers Classified: Can you tell me about the eSports journey at Bankstown Sports?

Jason Klippel: PZE was created by Bankstown Sports and was officially launched in November as our first foray into the eSports world. We held an event in The Grand Ballroom with a FIFA18 event, with 48 Xboxes and $10,000 in prize money. That attracted 300 players to the event and we live-streamed it on Twitch. That’s how it all started.

PZE Bar’s wall full of screens. You won’t find booths here. It’s all about that communal feeling.

Gamers Classified: Was there a defining moment or turning point that convinced you that eSports had truly taken off? Or was it more of a gradual thing where you noticed people were talking about eSports and video games more often?

Jason Klippel: Esports has been on the cusp of something big for quite a while. I don’t think there was a defining moment, but certainly the talk of eSports being an Olympic sport, the success of arena events like IEM and the announcement of the Gfinity Elite Series has bought about a lot of mainstream interest in eSports.

Two of the custom-built gaming PCs on the left. Two friendly, chatty blokes on the right.

Gamers Classified: With the little athletics and other sporting groups associated with Bankstown Sports, you have played a positive part in the lives of many kids in Bankstown. Whether it be for personal growth, socialising or the joy of competition, sports seem to have a universal appeal for young people. Do you see eSports playing a similar role eventually?

Jason Klippel: Definitely. One of the main focuses of PZE is to build eSports at a grassroots level by offering an environment for people to play in a social and competitive setting, rather than being at home. This is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else at the moment. We are currently only running over 18’s events, but there will be scope to expand that in the future.

Gamers Classified: I remember it was not too long ago that people would go to clubs to have beers with their mates, watch sports together on the big screens and cheer on their favourite team, and challenge each other to a friendly game of pool or darts. It was a very social thing involving traditional games. People are starting to do that now with eSports. Do you think video games are different from traditional games or is it the same kind of appeal?

Jason Klippel: I think it’s the same sort of thing. We are seeing a lot of professional eSports teams rising up through the Australian eSports scene, and that is giving local fans something to get behind and relate to. At PZE Bar, we are already screening streams of the big games going on around the world.

It’s super chill at PZE Bar as people kick back and watch their friends verse each other in Tekken 7.

Gamers Classified: I really get the feeling that the social aspect is the main attraction for PZE Bar. Would that be correct?

Jason Klippel: We really wanted to provide a casual and inviting area to bring the gaming community together. There hasn’t really been anything available like this before, with most gaming taking place at home or online. Just like Bankstown Sports is here to bring people in the community together, PZE Bar is designed for the same purpose.

Nice lighting. The banner on the left reads “Immerse yourself. Share the journey. Elevate the experience.” Nice sentiment.

Games Classified: Can you tell us more about your set up at PZE Bar?

Jason Klippel: We’re set up with nine Xbox Ones and 8 custom-built gaming PC’s. We’ve got a range of games on offer including FIFA18, Tekken 7, CS:GO, Fortnite, Forza 7, Rocket League and NBA2K18. We run tournaments on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights which are free to enter with cash prizes up for grabs.

Gamers Classified: What’s one of the more popular games enjoyed by PZE Bar guests so far?

Jason Klippel: Tekken 7 would be one of the more popular games played in the PZE Bar. The Fighting Game Community are well established in Sydney, and we have been able to work with them to bring a weekly tournament to PZE Bar that gives gamers a platform to constantly challenge themselves, while also encouraging new Tekken enthusiasts to compete in a friendly, unintimidating environment.

Kicking back at PZE Bar. I’m sure some of these Tekken 7 fans would be at OzHadou’s York Street Battles on the regular.

Gamers Classified: What’s the next step for PZE Bar? What can we expect in the near future?

Jason Klippel: When PZE Bar officially opened just over a month ago, we started with one FIFA 18 tournament a week on what was then a Thursday night. We’re now open 4 nights a week with tournaments and social nights. We are always looking to expand our tournament offerings, and have recently started offering corporate and social packages for those looking to do team building events or even private gaming nights.

Assassin’s Creed fans! Don’t get any ideas about climbing the sandstone façade in front of PZE Bar.

Gamers Classified: If we want to know more about PZE Bar, where do we go?

Jason Klippel: Facebook and through the Bankstown Sports website.

Gamers Classified: Last question. Any words for the eSports and video game community?

Jason Klippel: PZE Bar is a place for all gamers! Whether you just want to have a few social games against friends, or you want to challenge yourself against the best in our weekly tournaments, we have you covered!

SEM/PPC marketing professional with an interest in emerging media and communication trends. Enjoys writing, tea and calisthenics. These days, I tend to watch a game for the cutscenes and story rather than actually playing the game itself. Big fan of the SNES classic, Chrono Trigger.