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Cary, NC’s Top-Rated Esports Gaming Center | Contender Esports Cary

About Contender Esports Cary

Contender Esports Cary is a gaming center that offers a fun and educational experience for gamers in The Triangle area of North Carolina.

Welcome to Contender Esports Cary, the premier educational video gaming center in the Triangle area! Our gaming center, which opened in October 2020, was founded by Caleb Smith and Vinny Smith with the goal of providing a space for online gaming training, workshops, tournaments, open play, and more.

At Contender Esports Cary, we are committed to offering an enjoyable and educational experience for youth. We believe that video games can be a valuable tool for teaching important life skills such as teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, and integrity. Our programs are designed to foster these values, as well as promote sportsmanship and personal growth.

Our state-of-the-art facility features 50 gaming stations equipped with both PCs and consoles, friendly and experienced staff, and a safe and family-friendly environment. We are open for open play Sunday from 12PM-10PM, Monday through Thursday from 2PM-10PM, Friday from 2PM-12AM, and Saturday from 11AM-12AM. We also offer a variety of camps, birthday party packages, and youth teams for those interested in an extracurricular activity.

The owners of Contender Esports Cary, Caleb Smith and Vinny Smith, are both avid gamers and athletes who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the business. Caleb’s background in traditional sports and coaching has given him a unique perspective on the importance of youth development and character building, while Vinny’s education in computer science and experience in the Navy has instilled in him a passion for the potential of video games as a learning tool.

Whether you’re looking for a place to hone your gaming skills, connect with other players, or simply have some fun, Contender Esports Cary is the perfect destination. Stop by today and see what our educational gaming center has to offer!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Esports?

Esports is competitive video gaming. It is an industry that is on the rise. It is considered a sport and there is rec, club, middle school, high school, collegiate, amateur, and professional esports.

What is Contender Esports?

Contender Esports is a LAN center located in Waverly Place Cary. We are a sports facility that offers workshops, camps, and teams. In addition we offer hourly play, tournaments, and rentals for team practice, parties, and other events.

How is video gaming educational?

Studies show that playing video games encourages critical thinking, improves motor skills and promotes key social skills like leadership and team building. They’re also effective tools for teaching educational skills like algebra, biology and coding, as gaming helps to deepen learning and understanding.

How is this different from playing at home?

Within our workshops, camps, and teams the students are given an instructor who guides them through different skills of the games while teaching our core values of being punctual, working hard, having good sportsmanship, etc.

How is playing video games productive?

Esports is a team sport. Many games require as many as 5 or 6 players to compete. Like traditional sports there are positions and special skills. This allows us to teach our players how to work together and think to become both better players and better people.

Do people actually make money in esports?

Yes. There are many amateur and grassroots based tournaments where gamers can earn money. In addition there are college scholarships and professional contracts. At the highest level these contracts can be six and seven figures a year.

What kind of games do you all offer?

We have over two thousand games available to play with all your favorite titles such as Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch and more. With that being said not all games are free. We do have copies of the popular ones such as Overwatch and Cold War7

What are the specs on you all’s PCs?

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
RAM: Corsair 16G 3000
MHz Mobo: MSI X570
Chipset GPU: Nvidia 2060 Super Founders
Edition PSU: 750 Watt

Can I have my birthday party there?

Yes. We are available for parties and have two party rooms. One with (6) consoles and the other with (5) PCs. Please call 919-297-8302 or email info@cescary.com to reserve.

How much does it cost to rent the facility?

To rent a training room the cost is $20 an hour plus every person must pay the hourly rates. For information on renting the whole facility please call 919-297-8302.

What are workshops?

Workshops are skill sessions with other players. The focus is to improve the individual skill and teach the players how to utilize the individual skill to help the team perform better. They last 90 minutes and each are with a certified coach.

Working With XP League

At Contender Esports we happily partner with other organizations that share our same vision. As recently as January we partnered with XP League for their use of our facility. XP League is a youth esports league for elementary and middle schoolers that place high value on learning sportsmanship qualities through gaming. The company is headquartered locally in Raleigh, North Carolina. XP League started by being run out of Code Ninjas locations but are now expanding to different locations, ours being one of the first outside of Code Ninjas. Cary is the third local installment of XP League with both the Holly Springs and Wake Forest locations being run out of their respective Code Ninjas. 

This partnership has been a great experience for both Contender and XP League. It allows the XP League teams to experience a true gaming atmosphere and the ability to engage with others that have similar interests. Seeing their practices and games brings an exciting atmosphere as well as being able to see the teams’ improvements firsthand. Aside from the kids participating, I am able to work with great volunteer coaches, parents and the league commissioner, Olivia, who has been a blast to work and game with. I am lucky to have the luxury of partnering and working with another local start up in the same industry. Everyone in XP League from the owners to the kids are great people who I have had the privilege to be around.

Toxicity in Esports

Toxicity in esports is very common and many parents are concerned with their children raging while playing video games. I agree it is an issue, but I do not think the issue is as bad as parents might think. If you have read some of my previous blog posts you will know that I am a former athlete. When asked whether esports or sports were more toxic, the answer is this: it depends on the sport/esport. How is slamming a controller any different then someone throwing their helmet down after frustration? It’s not. It’s that it is more accepted by society. They see pro athletes do it so parents see no problem with their children copying it. The issue with esports is parents don’t experience how professional esports gamers actually are. You see and hear what Arod, Michael Jordan, and Serena Williams say and do. If that was the case for esports I don’t think parents would be all that concerned about it. I do believe it is an issue in both sports and esports, but there cannot be this double standard. 

As far as the harsh language being used in sports – we are less likely to use that language because there is a referee or official that will eject us from the game and we try to avoid the risk of getting punched by someone. That is not the case while playing a video game at home with someone 100 miles away who is not aware of your location. In sports I got upset with my teammates when they didn’t play well and upset with myself when I made mistakes. This led to raging. By no means am I saying that it is okay and should be tolerated, but the thinking of “video games promote violence” is ignorant and people need to understand it is just our competitive nature.  

Putting the “Me” in “Game” – How I Got My Start

The year was 2007, just three short years after the release of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen – additions to the Game Freak repertoire developed as enhanced versions of the super success games Pokémon Red and Blue. After a long year of great game releases, including titles such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Halo 3, December rolled around – and with it came the promise of my first grand foray into gaming. With last year fresh in everyone’s memory, boasting hits such as New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the GameCube (as well as the recent release of the new console, the Wii), all eyes were on Nintendo as the holiday season drew closer and closer. Their newest installments of the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, had been released in North America in April, just seven months after they released in Japan and became the top-selling game of that year. Anxious to get his hands on a copy, my younger brother was quick to draw up a wish list to Santa and document his interest in the game – something I would do as well, though I didn’t quite know why.

The truth of the matter was this: I had never played a Pokémon game before. I didn’t even own a DS. My exposure to gaming was limited to the PlayStation 2 and the few games my family owned for it, though I spent far more time watching my brother play it than I ever did playing it myself. By all accounts, I was no gamer. I didn’t know what a Pokémon was. I didn’t know the objective of the game, or the playstyle, or why anyone would be excited for it. All I knew was that my brother was interested – and that was good enough for me. As children we had always followed the other’s example, our likes and dislikes bouncing off one another and becoming some amalgamation of both. Naturally, this was no different – although, at the time, I could never have predicted how following in his footsteps would alter my life entirely.

The holidays came and went, and both he and I received Nintendo DSes as well as copies of the Diamond and Pearl games. Where he had Diamond, I had Pearl; where his DS was black, mine was red. This was to set the precedent for all Pokémon games (and DS games in general) to come – we would always get whatever the other didn’t, so we could distinguish his from mine as well as trade version exclusives to one another to fill our Pokédexes. Gradually, I learned what the essence of Pokémon was and how to play it – I learned that certain types held advantages against others, learned that there was merit in choosing specific moves and switching out Pokémon, learned that building a versatile team could be critical to the player’s overall success. For the first time, I had a solo gaming experience that I had enjoyed – and could share with others. Through my interest in Pokémon, I made friends at school, held discussions with my brother, and got to trade with other kids in my neighborhood. Being able to experience the game had directly allowed me the opportunity to bond with others, and I was certain that other games would yield the same result – giving me access to more communities of like-minded people that I could become friends with. In fact, I met some of my lifelong friends through a mutual interest in Pokémon. When Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver released, I would spend each recess running around with my Pokéwalker alongside my best friend – who continues to be my best friend even 10 years later. Can I solely credit Pokémon for this friendship? Perhaps not, but it planted the seed necessary for the tree to grow.

In the years that followed, my love for video games skyrocketed. Where it was once solely Pokémon, my interests quickly branched out into other genres – I dabbled in platformers, tried my hand at RPGs, and took a shot at FPS games. Though I was not automatically good at each genre, and thus felt somewhat discouraged, the comfort that the communities brought me was enough to keep me going. Eventually, through the expertise and guidance of peers more practiced in the games than I, I found myself able to truly enjoy the content that I was engaging with. Video games stuck with me all throughout my middle school years, up until grade 10 in high school. At that point, something… changed. Shifted. I dropped video games and withdrew myself from the communities I had previously been part of. The friends that I had made because of them faded alongside my interest, and for two years it seemed that I had given up gaming altogether.

Until, once again, I followed in my brother’s footsteps.

FromSoftware’s Bloodborne was a game he had mentioned in passing – a Souls-like game that a teacher of his often played and occasionally spoke to him about. My experience with the Souls games thus far had been, admittedly, anything but pleasant, so I found myself hesitant to even look into the game. After all, I had attempted to play Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin a year prior, but had little luck even getting past the first boss. The playstyle that suited the game best did not mesh with the way I wanted to approach it, and so I quickly discerned that the Souls games would not be for me – yet Bloodborne had a completely different atmosphere about it, and from what I had gleaned, the playstyle was vastly different as well. On top of that, it was a complete standalone game – it deviated from the Souls series in ways that made the two hardly comparable, and I thought that, perhaps, it was something I could master. Through the sheer kindness of his teacher, we were lent the game, and I felt something I had not felt in the entire two years before picking up Bloodborne: excitement. Not just excitement that, at 17, I was playing my first M-rated game (I grew up with strict parents and such a thing was unthinkable otherwise), but excitement at the promise of an entirely new experience. So I dove into Bloodborne headfirst, immediately immersed in the eerie, gothic architecture that surrounded my character and the human-but-not-human enemies that swarmed the streets of Yharnam. I was completely and utterly entranced; the game had charm, it had atmosphere, and it had downright incredible music that set the scene perfectly for each boss fight. The rush I felt when I beat the first boss on my first try was unparalleled. Here, I thought – here was a game I could hone my skill at, and one I, apparently, had a natural aptitude for. The aggressive yet strategic hack-and-slash gameplay was exactly what I had been looking for, and it was enough to convince me to give games as a whole a chance again.

Today, I continue to revisit Bloodborne for the nostalgia it brings me and for the chance to attempt new builds, new playthroughs. I play well-known free to play games such as League of Legends and Valorant, I play MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV, I play Destiny 2 and Fire Emblem and even picked up Dark Souls III. Through each of these games, I have met and connected with such a diverse cast of people that I would otherwise have never made contact with – and I consider myself better for it. Though I may not have all of them by my side today, I still carry with me and cherish the times we spent together as companions on the rift, or in Eorzea, or on Jupiter’s moon, Io. Video games have brought me such a unique and irreplaceable experience that has completely sculpted the way I approach new situations and people, and I could never be more thankful for it than I am today. No matter how young or old a person may be, video games can – and always will – deliver an experience that allows you to connect with others and create ties that may lead to lifelong friendships. Take it from me – if you’re considering picking up a new game, or even just a first game – that beginning step is the best one you’ll take, because once you take it, you’ll have new friends beside you to walk the rest of the way, too.

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