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David Bloom Senior ContributorI’m a media/tech/entertainment writer, podcaster, speaker and analyst
Esports organization Team Liquid and long-time sponsor Alienware unveiled a Los Angeles athletic performance lab designed to optimize players’ skills and even in-game assignments, part of a substantially expanded headquarters facility in Santa Monica, Calif.
The Pro Lab includes high-end Alienware computers, servers and screens outfitted with BrainsFirst testing software developed in The Netherlands that initially was used with soccer players. The software details not just reaction times and speed with controls, but also such talents as“attention performance,” “attention concentration,” and the ability to remember simple patterns and differences after seeing them for only a couple of seconds.
With soccer players, the resulting brain maps are starkly different for, say, fast-twitch strikers versus more strategically minded playmakers at the mid-field positions.
In similar fashion, there are different skill sets for different roles in titles such as Riot Games’ League of Legends, said Tanner Curtis, who oversees the Pro Lab and scouting for Team Liquid. The team plans to test all of its 120 or so pro athletes as well as its up-and-comers who are part of its Academy program.
“For existing veterans, most of it we already know,” Curtis said. “But we want to use the (initial tests) as a baseline to get different tools to help them succeed. We want to know more and more how they do it, and see how much they’re changing. We’re just trying to continue to innovate and stay on top.
The lab also features two “zero-G” reclining chairs, good for decompressing after high-intensity matches, a compression suit, and warm-up tools such as a set of lighted pods that operate somewhat like a whack-a-mole game to engage the brain before a match.
Separately, the company is hiring a chief dietitian to ensure the players are eating well and regularly. The facility includes a dining area and full commercial kitchen. The team also monitors sleep patterns for its players, to ensure they’re getting enough rest before matches.
Most players live in a large apartment complex next door to the industrial park where the Team Liquid space is located. A separate space in the facility features a wall-size projection screen and lounging sofa for reviewing matches and scouting briefings.
A pre-opening tour of the new facilities also attracted several Los Angeles Football Club players and Gavin Benjafield, the team’s director of performance. The Major League Soccer franchise’s investors include long-time Hollywood mogul Peter Guber, who’s also a Team Liquid investor.
LAFC is also considering how it might use the BrainsFirst software to optimize its own players, and make sure they’re in the right positions to succeed, among other issues, said Benjafield.
He cited instances where even professional players with some years at the game’s highest levels have been shifted from, say, front-line to mid-field roles that better take advantage of the ways their brains process information and understand what’s happening on the field.
The facility is tucked down the street from several entertainment and game companies, including Lionsgate and Stars, Universal Music Group, World League Gaming, public radio powerhouse KCRW-FM, and Awesomeness in Santa Monica’s Eastside media district. Riot Games’ West Coast headquarters, including an arena for League of Legends matches, are about a mile away.
“Similar to the development of our training facilities, we believe The Pro Lab will make waves in the esports industry and beyond,” says Team Liquid founder and Co-CEO Victor Goossens in a release. “There are core skills that we look for in every successful competitor, and this program will help uncover new universal guidelines and (key performance indicators) that we hope will one day serve as industry-wide benchmarks when it comes to player training.”
The Los Angeles facility also has multiple “scrim” rooms where its teams can scrimmage other teams between matches, two production “pods” for its social-media streamers, and space for most of its back-office operations.