Get in the Game: A Q&A with Dylan Waters of Vortex Esports Arena

If you think esports are just video games, it’s possible you haven’t played much since Donkey Kong.

Esports – electronic sports — describes the world of organized, competitive video gaming. And according to Marketing Influencer Hub, the 2021 global esports industry is valued at more than $1 billion, which represents a 50% increase from the year before. And that number is projected to top $1.8 billion in 2022.

One local player in the esports ring is Vortex Esports Arena, which bills itself as “The gaming center of Port Orange and the Greater Daytona Area, built by and for the local gaming community.”

Dylan Waters

Dylan Waters, General Manager, took time to answer a few questions.

What is Vortex?

Vortex Esports Arena is a gaming center that hosts a variety of activities related to video games such as tournaments, usage of one of our high-end PCs or unique social events to help bring the local scene together. 

Our primary focus is to provide a top-of-the-line gaming experience for customers to be able to come and play their favorite games with equipment that they may not have available at home; we have over 30 computers as well as several gaming consoles set up for anyone to come in and play. In addition, we also host more focused and community-oriented events, such as our esports tournaments, live Dungeons & Dragons sessions and an end-of-the-month 24HR Event. We also can host birthday parties or other types of gatherings. We have a private Party Room – a soundproofed space that also has doubled as a recording area for musicians – for a smaller celebration. Something that we’ve noticed happening is people asking to use our space in unique ways that we didn’t initially foresee, and accordingly, our team has learned to be flexible to make these requests a reality.

Vortex Esports Arena

How long have you been around? Where did the idea for Vortex come from?

Vortex Esports Arena opened its doors during the spring of 2020. There were some Local Area Network (LAN) Centers in the Ormond and Holly Hill area that had closed in years prior, and the goal of opening Vortex was to provide a location where the displaced communities could come together and share their interests with like-minded peers.

Who is your target audience?

Our clientele consists of many different people with various backgrounds, ages, beliefs and personal talents. From first-time gamers, college and high school students and out-of-town esports competitors to those with more focused interests such as card games, graphic designers and even musicians.

Let’s talk about the tournaments––what kind of tournaments do you host and how big are they? How integral are tournaments to your business model?

While we’ve been open to hosting tournaments for a wide variety of games, we’ve really found the most success with Fighting Games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Guilty Gear -Strive-. In addition to our weekly tournaments, which are for our local players to refine their skills, we also host monthly and quarterly tournaments that attract the strongest competitors from not only the Daytona area but also from nearby hotspots such as Orlando, Jacksonville and beyond. 

Each participant is competing for cash prizes and the pool is dependent on the number of entrants. The prize pool is split three ways: 60%, 30% and 10% to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The more entrants there are, the bigger the prize pool. These tournaments, while not the main driving force behind our finances, bring the core community aspect that is integral to a place of this nature. Bigger tournaments may generate bigger revenue, though it requires more involvement from multiple parties. The best part about this is the growth we have been experiencing is on an upwards tick, more new faces and more new talent.

What’s been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

One of our greatest challenges, and one that we can confidently say is a challenge faced by many of our contemporaries, is that there has always been a bit of a negative stigma associated with video games, often by parents or other family members who don’t see much further than the surface. At Vortex Esports Arena, we aim to foster an environment that exemplifies what is good about video games. We provide a fun, social meeting place for people to forge lifelong friendships steeped in shared hobbies and exhibit just how video games have the power to bring people together.

Vortex Leadership Team from left to right, R. Antonio Del Valle – Director of Events, Dylan Waters – General Manager, Thomas Cevallos – Operations Manager & Director of Education, Dalton Herdegen – Director of PR and Marketing.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now, our immediate plans involve expanding into education with technology workshops covering topics such as programming, graphic design, video editing, Microsoft Office and even basic computer literacy. We also are exploring the idea of an esports team which in turn would help represent the Vortex Esports Arena brand beyond our walls. Finally, and probably most importantly, we are looking to participate more in our immediate local area. Through hosting more community events such as The Vortex Showdown and collaborating with schools and school clubs to host events, our goal is to solidify Vortex Esports Arena as a staple destination in the Greater Daytona Area