This week, NerdQ’s Erik Meyer had the pleasure of chatting with Jesse Hoffart from Gravity Gaming. With the emergence of VR and high-end electronics, established companies have found real success meeting consumer demand, and the viewpoint of an industry leader provides a window into larger conversations.
Erik Meyer: For the uninitiated, what brought Gravity Gaming to Moorhead, and what kinds of things make it stand out in the world of computer hardware?
Jesse Hoffart: Gravity Gaming is a brand dedicated to PC Gaming founded by ByteSpeed, a leading nationwide provider of custom-built computer hardware since 1999, which is located right here in Moorhead, MN. We combined our passion for PC gaming with our 17 years of computer industry experience to create Gravity Gaming. Like Bytespeed, Gravity Gaming provides best in class customer service and support. We believe that a computer is only as good as the support provided by the company that built it. As gamers, we understand the importance of a quality machine, and that’s why we handpick hardware partners that we know and trust in the gaming industry. We also run an extensive 48-hour stress test before it leaves the building so you can start gaming right out of the box.
EM: There’s been a lot of buzz around the Vive and similar VR setups. Where do you see that segment of the industry now, and where do you see it heading?
JH: Gravity Gaming has VR setups with the Vive and Oculus that we test with our machines to see how the headsets differ. Being able to use both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive I can tell you first hand that both are a great first iteration in VR technology. It’s crazy to see full-fledged games coming out, as well as unique and interesting stories told in Virtual Reality. We really believe that VR is the tip of the iceberg for the future in gaming, entertainment, medical, architecture, and education markets.
EM: The virtual reality (VR) versus augmented reality (AR) discussion has ramped up recently. Do you see these two things in competition? If so, what challenges does each one need to overcome? If they have a synergistic middle ground, what does that look like?
JH: It’s hard to say where the markets will go, but I don’t believe they will be in competition – mostly because they have two different case uses. I see VR being used for immersive entertainment and learning. With immersive VR, you can be transported to new worlds and really experience them without leaving your home. VR also allows for objects that are hard to obtain suddenly being in front of you. In comparison, I see AR being beneficial for our day-to-day jobs, increasing accuracy and productivity, especially in the trades fields. We like to imagine that day in the future where we can have one headset that will allow for both AR and VR.
EM: You have a number of gaming rigs on your site; what would you say describes the Gravity Gaming experience for each one?
JH: The great thing about Gravity Gaming is that we can offer any experience with our custom PCs. We start with base specs, but every single model can be upgraded and customized the way you want it. For instance, if you are looking for smaller PC, the Eclipse is the same size as an Xbox One and fits great in an entertainment center. The Nova is a compact PC, taking up less space on your desk, with the power of a full-sized tower. The Impact is a midtower PC for the cost-conscious gamers. The Force is our flagship case. It features a well-rounded case with great airflow and sound deadening installed for a quiet and powerful gaming PC. The Force also has a built-in fan controller and plenty of room for upgrades, that the case makes easy to install. Last, but not least, is the Quantum. This is the full tower for the person that wants to be able to fit anything and everything in their PC and wants the extra room for upgrades. So whether you want a tiny Eclipse or a full-sized Quantum, you can configure the machine to be exactly what you want.
EM: I notice the Gaming for Education tie-in on your site, so let’s speak to that. How is Gravity Gaming involved in education?
JH: Gravity Gaming is targeting the education markets because we see the value in learning through gaming technology and VR. Our founding company, ByteSpeed, has been an industry leader for K-12 markets for the last 17 years, so we are well tuned with the needs and challenges in today’s schools. We are bringing new and innovative ways to education. The most influential is the ability to use virtual reality as a learning tool and inspire students who might have not otherwise been involved in school. There are subnational efforts by developers making educational VR experiences. For example, when using VR, you can study history as if you were there or learn about space and be floating outside the International Space Station. In education, there is a large push toward STEAM or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. There are powerful experiences for each of those fields using VR. A quote we find particularly powerful on this is “We learn… 10% of what we read, 30% of what we see, 80% of what we experience,” by Edgar Dale – Cone of Experience. The other education initiative we are focusing on is the creation of gaming clubs. Gaming clubs are a great place to engage students that are not the athletic or musical, and encourage them to interact with fellow students. There are numerous benefits including leadership and teamwork that these students can learn in the process. Another benefit as well as there are now High School e-Sports Leagues that their clubs can participate in. This is the part that makes me jealous, as there are more and more gaming scholarships being awarded and these students could benefit from them.
EM: The Red River Valley has been called “The Silicon Prairie,” given the number of start-ups that are currently here. Do you feel you play into that? Groups like Fargo Game Makers are growing; does Gravity Gaming participate in dev culture?
JH: ByteSpeed has been here for 17 years so it’s hard to say we play a role in start-ups just because Gravity Gaming is coming from a large back-bone in the hardware industry. However, there are always new challenges in the gaming industry. Because we specialize in hardware, we currently don’t participate in the dev culture but we support them all. It’s great to see so much talent and gaming enthusiasm right here in the F-M area!
EM: Finally, what would you say has been the most satisfying experience you’ve had as part of Gravity Gaming in the last year?
JH: For me personally, being able to experience the gaming world not only as a hobby, but as a business. I am a gamer through and through, so being able to translate that to my work is so rewarding. A few months ago, I went to TwitchCon to represent Gravity, which was amazing! People were excited to see a company that cares about the PCs they build for their customers and gives the support that stands behind them after they buy it. We have learned a lot in the last year and are excited for what the future will bring in gaming!