Soccer fans get a kick out of virtual sports bar • Brooklyn Paper

Soccer fans get a kick out of virtual sports bar

FIFA-dom: Eric Kingrea and his Playstation 3 have transformed the Williamsburg bar Banter into a soccer video game hang-out spot on Tuesdays.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Get drunk, grab a controller, and get rowdy.

A Williamsburg bar is hosting weekly game nights where patrons can sign up for some competitive soccer on the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 gaming consoles.

But you don’t have to love what Europeans call “football” to have a great time. Eric Kingrea, who started the game nights, certainly didn’t.

“The way I got into soccer was through [the video game],” he said. “I’m from the South and soccer is kind of a communist sport down there.”

After he and his roommate Daniel Katzman immersed themselves in the virtual world of slide tackles and yellow cards, Kingrea started to follow soccer in real life, learning who the stars of the game were, especially during the World Cup. Eventually, he approached the owners of an actual bar that shows actual soccer matches on weekends about starting a regular soccer video game night featuring Electronic Arts’ “FIFA 13.”

Co-owner of the bar Banter, Chris Keller, not only thought this was a good idea — the place already had an Xbox 360.

“We did a tournament a year ago,” said Keller, “Hopefully [these weekly game nights] lead to a league.”

Keller and Kingrea both hope what is currently about 20 to 30 people signing up on Tuesday nights to test each other’s skills will become a tournament, with beer sponsorship, sometime in May.

And while playing video games at a sports bar seems like it might incite regulars to shout for real professional athletes on the screen, Kingrea says the visual effects of “FIFA 13” are stunningly realistic. So much so, playing soccer on the Playstation has skewed his relationship with the actual game of soccer.

“I’ll watch a Red Bulls game and international games and I’ll be screaming at the players, ‘Triangle button!’” he said, referring to what is the button for a through ball pass.

“It gets you a very strange idea of the game.”

And it’s not just Kingrea who’s losing his grip on reality — and enjoying it. Other regulars at the bar find the video game to be a redemptive and cathartic therapy for when their team doesn’t cut it in real life.

“[One guy’s] favorite team is a Mexican team and one night they got beat by the Houston Dynamo,” Kingrea recounted. “He wanted to replay the game, so I played him and he kicked my ass. He wanted some justice there.”

Roughly a month into the weekly gaming nights, it seems the marriage between a sports bar and video games is a good one. Kingrea said his goal isn’t necessarily to cater to gamers or sports fans, but to have anyone walk in the bar and have a great time. The idea, he said, is to get drunk and have fun.

“Once we had an Irish stag party come in and they were all half in the bag when they walked in and the groom sat down and started playing some of the bar regulars,” Kingrea said.

“You would have thought it was an actual f—— soccer game, what with all the loud reception, hard tackles, and enthusiastic cheering going on.”

“FIFA 13” at Banter Bar [132 Haveyer St. at S. First Street, (718) 599–5200, www.banterbrooklyn.com]. Tues. 7–11 pm. Free.

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