My night in a 'gaming suite' forced me to reckon with the time I spend playing video games
An aurora-borealis at this time of day, in this part of the country, localised entirely within a Leicester Square hotel suite? Well, no… not exactly, though you might be forgiven for thinking as much.
I was staying the night in W Hotel London’s brand new ‘Gaming Suite’, a room in the city centre designed specifically for the needs of video-game players.
For those who are successful at it, gaming is big business, with some players earning megabucks competing in eSports tournaments or streaming their virtual accomplishments to legions of adoring fans online. No doubt W Hotel is hoping to cash in by providing luxury accommodation for the newly minted class of millionaire Fortnite fighters, Twitch streamers, PUBG players.
Upon entering my overnight accomodation, I found myself confronted with the ‘rig’: a huge metal desk, behemoth 55-inch curved television screen, web-cameras, microphones, a glittering keyboard and a brand new Xbox Series X console. The aurora-generating CyberPower PC, a customised computer the size of a small filing cabinet festooned with glowing lights and glass sits just to the side.
I’d preordered The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to try out the brand new graphically-updated ‘Enhanced Edition’ on the big screen and found it pre-downloaded and ready to play when I arrived, alongside other popular titles such as the most recent Call Of Duty and Fifa titles. The Xbox in the room comes with Game Pass so any title included in Microsoft’s ‘Netflix for video-games’ service is available on cue.
I don’t actually have an account on Twitch so most of the whizzbang gadgets on the gaming rig were slightly lost on me, though I did make a Zoom call to test out the camera - you to make sure it was as good as claimed - no complaints here.
While the ‘Gaming Suite’ is currently being advertised as such, without the tech and the setup, it really is just a standard suite in the hotel. All that to say, it’s a very luxurious room with a bathtub the size of a standard double-bed, no less than four televisions and with views overlooking Leicester Square. Just don’t expect gaming paraphernalia festooning every surface. In fact, beyond a couple of pillowcases and the rig itself you might not even think of it as a ‘gaming suite’ at all.
One element which is exclusive to the suite is a specialised room service menu which will, allegedly, take my gaming ability to the next level. Front-and-centre are a couple of smoothies created with “functional mushroom extract”. The manufacturer of this stuff makes all kinds of wild claims from being able to heighten focus to stimulating the growth of brain cells - all things which I can see why a professional Fortnite player would want. It may not surprise you to hear I didn’t detect any particular improvements, though I confess that could be because I am not in the habit of playing multiplayer online battle arena-type games.
Still, spurious science aside, I did have a lovely time exploring The Witcher’s Continent again on the big screen from the comfort of a great big gaming chair.
It’s experiences like this which remind you just how addictive gaming as a hobby can be. With my focus entirely set on video-games, I didn’t stop playing until well after the roar of the crowds in Leicester Square had gone silent (around two in the morning.)
But therein lies the rub: is the very concept of a ‘gaming suite’ an oxymoron? After all, video-games, like books or films, invite their players into a different reality. Your surroundings, luxurious or otherwise, are besides the point: the focus is in the game’s world, not your own.
Some of my finest gaming memories took place in the back of my parents’ car on long roadtrips, sequestered away in a junk-filled spare room on the oldest television in the house, or in my tiny student bedroom with my friends. Sure, I could spend £1,500 a night to transpose those memories into a luxury hotel room, but would the setting make those memories better? I don’t think so.
In fact, for that money you could buy a top of the line Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch and still have a fair chunk of change to spend on games. Or a 65-inch TV to have at home. Or four top-of-the-line gaming chairs.
I found myself pondering, multiple times during my stay, “who is this for?” World-class gamers and Twitch streamers tend to have their own, highly customised setups at home: would they really need all these gadgets and gizmos in a hotel room? You’d hope they could take a night off, especially if they were forking out for such a nice hotel room, or else perhaps they need screening for gaming addiction.
The only answer I could come up with, I’m afraid, was this: the room was meant for the children of parents who’ve long-since given up trying to expose them to the outside world. “We’ve brought you on the trip of a lifetime to London, Timmy, but we know you’ll make our lives a misery if we attempt to take you to the museums or a show on the West-End so stay in here and play your games while we’re out experiencing the city,” I imagined a frazzled mother saying.
At reception on the way out, I asked whether the suite had been a hit so far. “Oh absolutely,” the concierge told me. “It’s been fully booked for weeks.”
A few nights later I continued playing The Witcher in my little flat. Despite the lack of mushroom smoothies, aurora-projecting PC, and fancy gaming chair, I was no less engrossed in what was happening in front of me on the screen. So, as my mind drifted back to the luxurious environs of the gaming-suite I realised I’d made an error. Perhaps the same error I’ve been making for a long time, perhaps I’d missed the woods for the virtual trees. I can enjoy gaming at home, I should have spent less time on the Xbox and more time lounging in that gargantuan bathtub…
W Hotels London’s Gaming Suite is available to book until April 2022, priced at £1,500 per night.