(Please note that this video is in french only)

Some wine or a beer is my usual go-to beverage as I sit glassy-eyed playing 4 consecutive hours of Halo, sniping and teabagging my way to victory. There’s just something about video games and alcohol that works. A synergetic relationship; a symbiosis of sorts that adds that extra panache to gaming. While most of this is done in the comfort of our own personal dungeons, sometimes allowing our most trusted mates to join in on the fun, it’s a nice thought to be able to go out in the great big world and game on with other people.

Enter gaming bars. These aren’t new, especially in Montreal. Some have dipped their toes into the concept by integrating arcade machines into their locale, while others have recreated basement-type layouts filled to the brim with cross-generation consoles. What’s lacking in the scene (despite the city being a proverbial gaming hub) is a location that fuses the entire gaming network and a deep understanding of the community.  This is what Vincent Doré-Millet and co-owner Tony Galdès envision with Montreal’s upcoming gaming hotspot Nexus SmartBar.

Flair - Image by Vincent Dore-Millet

Flair – Image by Vincent Dore-Millet

Food, Booze and Community Love

Part of Nexus’s plan is to bridge the gap between the various factions of the community while cultivating a space that is welcoming to both newcomers and veterans within the gaming world. As Vincent puts it, they want to create a

“warm and cozy gathering place, a bar where you’re sure you’ll never miss a major eSport event and where you’ll always be certain to meet people from the indie community… (to) promote the whole ecosystem of gaming and see it thrive. We will promote the positive aspects and development aspects of gaming (in order to) see old prejudices against gamers fade away. There are so many people working in this universe other than just the producers or progamers: programmer, engineers, level designers, concept artists, authors, composers, etc. So many contributors, (who are) more-or-less visible,in this community have no place of their own”.  

While the project may seem ambitious, the idea for the plan began simmering in the back of Vincent and Tony’s mind for a while now, and had begun two years ago when Vincent was casting StarCraft 2 matches at the B1 Bar on Saint-Denis street. B1 Bar owner and now Nexus co-owner Tony had launched his “dimanche gamer!” (Gamer Sundays) where Vincent would host local eSports competitions. As payment for his casting duties,  Tony offered him beer .Obviously, the beer kept Vincent going to B1 Bar and through a mutual love for videogames, the concept of the Nexus SmartBar was born. While Vincent, an electronics engineer and former Lan ETS manager, overlooks the more technological aspects of the bar, and Tony takes care of the business side, together, they’re creating the first bar in Montreal entirely dedicated to gaming culture. But Nexus doesn’t simply want to be your beer giving, rum and coke slinging establishment; they want to integrate Montreal’s rich nightlife, so the spot becomes both somewhere to kickback and relax, as well as somewhere you’d want to spend until 3 am with your friends tasting some of the finest cocktails Montreal’s mixologie culture has to offer, all while immersing yourself in the world of video games. And, of course, the drinks will be themed: Already, they’ve developed several prototype cocktails, including the Thirsty Kirby, the Ghost Caesar, the Na’vi and the Choco-Beau, as well as some 1 litre “Epic Drinks” to cater to those who don’t want to keep getting up in between games (and who does?). What’s critical is that by fusing a cocktail bar with gaming, it serves to dispel the stigma and image that the gaming industry is childish, immature and shallow.

ChocoBeau Drink - image by Vincent Dore-Millet

ChocoBeau Drink – image by Vincent Dore-Millet

One Place to Rule Them All

As for what video game content will be part of the bar, the owners are using their understanding of the complexity and the subtleties of the community as guiding  tenets of the bar’s concept . While many popular gaming bars everywhere focus on arcades and retro games, Nexus aims to take it a step above and wants to include both the latest and most popular games, as well as those that often have little reach:

“There’s a lot of brand-new indies that are fantastic and innovative, even if we only focus on the one’s from Montreal. We want to give a chance to those guys! We aren’t going to disregard the retro world… but look at it this way: we don’t use a phonebooth to order pizza anymore. (Why?) Stuff evolves.”

Part of highlighting different aspects is also to actively engage this community as well.  They plan of inviting different developers to Nexus each week:

“Every Tuesday night ideally, we would love to have an independent developer, local or not, come and take an hour or so to present to everyone their new project, or newly launched Kickstarter.”

This definitely acts as a service where people not only get to make connections, but also gain visibility to games oft overshadowed by AAA or other really popular games. However, engaging the entire community isn’t solely relegated to putting the spotlight on devs; they want to recognize others who contribute as well:

We also want to valorise other professions that are linked to gaming by organizing activities, such as speed painting competitions between various concept artists where we give them an hour to see who can come up with the coolest design, and we may even have other activities that involve cosplayers.”

Nexus SmartBar by Vincent Dore-Millet

Nexus SmartBar by Vincent Dore-Millet

Opinions, Participation and S-S-Swag.

Another wicked aspect in their mission to unite the gaming world is a side-project that is still in development called “Automation.” This will put more of a focus on people like you and I, those who play and consume the cultural products. They want to understand what makes gamers tick; what they like and dislike:

“We want to try and garner opinions through different surveys of sorts on a variety of different subjects such as: what people like, or don’t like about MOBAs, how they view the future of gaming, are the latest graphic cards worth the purchase, what kind of events they would like created, etc… With this kind of information (which would be absolutely, 10000% anonymous and untraceable) we can garner a solid database of information in which we can study to better understand the community. This will also be part of a rewards system we plan on bringing in, where we compensate people who participate in our surveys through our XP system.”

The XP system is a particularly brilliant innovation on their part. It hits all gamers’ sweet spots: competitiveness, gain and, most importantly, being actively part of something.  Already in development is a dedicated app for Nexus SmartBar which will not only contain the basics (the menu, cocktails, news, events, etc), but also a way to farm Nexus SmartBar XP points. Though nothing is concretized, what they plan on doing is that the moment you enter the bar and open the app, you’re automatically connected to the bar through bluetooth. The longer you stay and more often you come, the more points you’ll gain:

“Eventually, you’ll be able to exchange your points for different things like specialized lighting animations in the bar, ability to add a song to the playlist, sending a message that will be displayed on the tvs in the bar, a wristband, a t-shirt and even a rebate on your bill. There’s a plethora of things we can eventually do with this, but the first thing we plan on doing is to display the color of the person in the bar who has the highest amount. Like, when we have a level 95 that enters the bar, we want to make sure that everyone knows that they are the VIP in the room!”

Gaining XP simply by being at the SmartBar is amazing, especially since they want to broadcast all different types of eSports events on the televisions. Competitive gaming is gaining worldwide recognition and is especially becoming a major part of Montreal’s gaming culture, in which this year we get to host the ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup) CS:GO finals where the top players from all over the world will come to battle it out in the city. They also plan on televising different Twitch streams, and hosting local gaming competitions.

Fragile - Image by Vincent Dore-Millet

Fragile – Image by Vincent Dore-Millet

Almost There.

All this, and more, is part of the greater philosophy that is shaping the identity and mission of the Nexus SmartBar. The possibilities to foster ties and link the different parts of gaming world are literally quite endless, and their emphasis on the social and community aspect of videogames are remarkable and quite important, especially since a lot of our time gaming is spent alone. And even better, this will be propped up by the opportunity of a night out with great food, great cocktails and great people. While it’s slated to open up this summer, no official opening date has been released. If you find it hard to abate your excitement, and want to find out more information, make sure to follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.
One thing is certain though: the Montreal gaming scene is about to become that much more interesting.