In May, Moscow became home to the newly opened Yota Arena. As most Western gamers likely know, Russians take their eSports extremely seriously; while we’re starting to catch up somewhat, at least in terms of eSports’ mainstream acceptance, Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS), and Asia are generally still years ahead.
Yota Arena represents a major new push into the expansion of professional gaming in the region. It is now the largest dedicated eSports venue in the CIS (boasting 3.1 square miles of floor space); it can seat roughly 90 competitors at once with the ability to accommodate over 1,000 spectators. By comparison, the United States’ largest single eSports venue is about 1,500 square yards.
Before even entering the building, it is clear that Yota Arena’s exterior was designed with a clear futuristic aesthetic.
Once inside, however, I found that Yota Arena was intended to be much more than a simple eSports venue. More than anything, it was obviously intended as a haven for nerds — though there were sleek, glowing areas with a sci-fi tone, other spots were designed with an emphasis on a steampunk and fantasy motif.
There was even this rather iconic piece of furniture.
While there are areas dedicated to comfortably seating spectators, some of these areas doubled as either dining spaces or bars meant for use even when there is no competition to watch. This area (shown below) is a reading nook of sorts filled with an interesting mixture of old science text books and graphic novels in Russian.
Hey look, it’s “Y: The Last Man,” one of my favorites!
Here are some photographs showing off one of the main bar areas. From here people could enjoy their beverages while watching a professional round of Counter Strike: GO or Dota 2 on gigantic screens.
The bar area also featured Vive VR headsets; though unfortunately they were not entirely functional (it was the first day Yota Arena was open to the public, after all), they were intended to act as a “virtual” bar, presumably with various skins (just imagine getting a pint while in a digital recreation of the Mos Eisely cantina). Personally I hope I can one day get a Romulan ale while sitting in Ten-Forward.
Just off from the bar area, there are some cool alcoves where those looking to do some non-competitive gaming can sit on plush couches and no-scope their friends in Halo or play some old school Smash Bros.
Soon after exploring the bar floor, we descended to the lower level. Here people were standing in line to play various games on souped up PCs against strangers.
The Russian Cybersports Final happened this past week, the first major eSports event to be held at Yota Arena. It featured some of Russia’s best known competitive teams — Virtus.pro and Team Empire — going head to head in Dota 2.
We ended up capturing many more wonderful photographs of Yota Arena and they can be seen in the gallery below. Click to see in full resolution!
All photographs courtesy of Mikhail Malisov except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved.