Kevin Wick, co-owner and founder of AFK Gamer Lounge, is hoping his video game-inspired lounge will become a beacon for competitive gamers to hone their skills and a place to grab a drink and a bite to eat with friends for casual gamers.

Playing video games with opponents in the same room may seem like an archaic idea, but live video game competitions have become the norm with professional gamers sometimes competing for millions of dollars.

Just this past December, the SAP Center hosted the Intel Extreme Masters Tournament and filled out about one-third of the arena with thousands of “League of Legends” and “StarCraft II” fans. had a chance to talk with Wick about why he chose San Jose for his new business, and what his plans are for the future. What inspired you to open AFK?

Kevin Wick (KW): I always had a ton of people who would come over to my house all the time to play video games. I’ve always been the type of person that wants people to come to me instead of me going over to their places, so I’ve always made my homes most attractive with all the game systems, large TVs and plenty of cold beer in the fridge.

Eventually, people just started showing up and sometimes people would show up that I didn’t even know. I said to myself, “I want other people to experience this as well. Maybe there’s a way I can turn this into a business.” Basically AFK is my house now; I live here. People come over to enjoy beer and video games the same way they do at my place.

What’s the setup like at AFK?

It’s kind of like a sports bar with large TV’s everywhere, but instead of traditional sports playing on the TV’s, there’s e-sports. Games like Dota 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike are big in that world.

Also, on the main floor we have our lounge, which has console video games set up to play. All you have to do is order an entree or buy a drink and you can start playing right away. Downstairs we have the full-on traditional LAN center which is run on a membership kind of deal. That’s for the more serious hardcore gamers who are here to eat and possibly come train with their e-sports teams.

Do you have any e-sports events coming up?

On Saturday May 9, we’re hosting the Red Bull Battlegrounds LAN San Jose competition. The game of choice for the competition is DOTA 2.

How did you get the attention of Red Bull?

Basically we just built the place and all of our research said they would come to us, and they did. We built it, and they came.

What makes AFK different from other gaming centers (such as LAN centers?)

The biggest aspect is who we’re catering toward. Ten years ago it was a bunch of nerdy teenagers who went to LAN centers. Now those guys are all working at Google and Facebook, but they still love gaming. Now they’re adults seeking a social experience in addition to the gaming, and we’re trying to get a lot of events going to make that happen. We’re trying to focus on the competitive aspects of gaming.

Why did you choose downtown San Jose as your base of operations?

I went to San Jose State University and I really liked the area. There’s a lot of opportunity here and I think it’s going to be one of the largest growth areas in the Bay Area in the next five years. In San Francisco, you can pay a crazy amount per square foot for rent and maybe get a piece of the action, but I think it’s very saturated up there and inflated. I think getting in on the height of San Francisco is not as attractive as getting in on the ground floor of San Jose.

Also, San Jose has a thriving gaming community. Three of the best teams in the world for the most popular video game titles are from the bay area. Specifically two of them are from San Jose, which is Team SoloMid and Team Cloud9.

What is your favorite game?

Fallout 3, but I love Super Smash Brothers. It’s so easy to pick up the controller, play one game and stop. I don’t have time for 100+ hour RPG’s right now.

The grand opening for the AFK Gamer Lounge takes place on April 17 at 5pm.