Welcome to the Command Center
By Lang Whitaker

Where do you play video games when you play video games?

Do you sit on your couch, your feet up on the coffee table? Maybe you perch on the edge of your bed, or you park it in a comfy chair.

Video games may take place in a virtual realm, but the physical space you are in when you’re playing games matters as much as anything.

Back in the fall, when I got hired as the General Manager of Grizz Gaming, one of the very first conversations I had with The Powers That Be here at the Grizzlies was about creating a Grizz Gaming practice space. We didn’t have any concrete ideas as to what we were going to make, but my main goal was that we build something experiential and memorable and unique to Memphis. I mean, why not? If you’re going to build something, do it right.

We started kicking around ideas. Where would we build it? We eventually identified a large open space on the fourth floor of the Grizzlies administration building, which was being used for the occasional event.

That would give us plenty of room, but what would we put in there? At the end of the day, the NBA 2K League and video games are about competition. After numerous conversations and meetings, we realized that the most Memphis thing we could build as a way to facilitate competition was a wrestling ring. For years here in Memphis, there’s been a rich wrestling history involving everyone from Jerry “The King” Lawler to Andy Kaufman to Hulk Hogan to Ric Flair. What better way to nod to competition and the history of Memphis than invoking wrestling? We decided to put our gamers inside a wrestling ring. To go work each day, you have to climb through the ropes, a symbolic way of noting that you are ready to compete. Oh, and this is not only a space to play video games, it’s a fully-functioning state-of-the-art broadcast studio, where we can stream practices but also originate a live broadcast with multiple cameras.

(And if you look closely, we extended the wrestling nods onto our virtual court, which has three lines around it like ropes, and our in-game uniforms, which also have a wrestling rope design on each side.)

So we painted and constructed and artchitechted. We ordered a wrestling ring, built desks, hung 70-inch monitors all over the place, connected the fastest internet in the region, ran wires and cables all over the place, threw in a couch and some chairs, hung a glass dry-erase board and, finally, stocked the fridge. We installed all the tech stuff from our partners, like the amazing Alienware computers, high-end gaming chairs from DXRacer and incredible peripherals from HyperX.

Once America’s Navy came on board as Grizz Gaming’s presenting partner, we sought their input and eventually came up with a name for our practice space: The Grizz Gaming Command Center presented by America’s Navy. We can practice here every day, hang out here when we’re not practicing, stream here, host events with our partners and our gamers.

This is our space, and, finally, it’s ready to meet the world.

Welcome to the Command Center. This is where we play video games when we play video games. It’s pretty incredible.