God I feel old! If you had asked me to define competitive socialising, I’d have said it meant going out more than anyone else you know to clubs, pubs and parties (and that a long, long time ago, I had been very competitive).

Liz Hamson, editor of Propety Week

Not so, it seems. These days, it’s all about playing ping pong, darts, 10-pin bowling and board games or navigating escape rooms (yes, really) in between shoving down food and drink at some hipster hangout in Shoreditch.

Competitive socialising is ‘a thing’ - and it’s going to be an even bigger thing soon, as is the wider ‘experiential leisure’ phenomenon.

Witness what’s going on at Silvertown. The partnership behind the £3.5bn Royal Docks regeneration scheme is planning to develop a 300,000 sq ft ‘esports’ hub, which will be the biggest in Europe. Boasting a 3,000-seat arena, the new hub taps into both the tech and experiential leisure trends, offering spectators the chance to watch video gamers do their stuff (which sounds suspiciously akin to watching snooker, but each to their own).

Silvertown new

The new esports vision for Silvertown

There are also plans to include a gaming café and sell esports paraphernalia, and it is this potential to boost footfall, dwell time and ultimately sales that is, of course, key.

It is a sign o’ the times (I’m quoting Prince here, naturally, not Harry Styles), but experiential leisure is increasingly a ‘need to have’, not a ‘nice to have’, as we report in our latest Retail, Leisure & Hotels supplement.

While some concepts are being developed for the sheer ‘wow’ factor, such as the world’s first public terrestrial zero-gravity experience, the reason most landlords and retailers are suddenly launching themselves into leisure in a big way is more basic: they want consumers to visit their scheme rather than someone else’s and they need to compete with online retailers by offering something their online counterparts cannot - a physical experience.

Curation for a new generation

That is why they are increasingly ‘curating’ their space to ensure their offer is truly differentiated from the competition. In many cases piggybacking on the food and beverage outlets that proliferated as landlords sought to fill space vacated by failed retailers in the recession, the new breed of leisure outlets puts traditional leisure centres to shame. Forget sports centres with a gym, a swimming pool and maybe a climbing wall.

The new David Lloyd adventure centres are set to offer a whole host of activities under one roof. Meanwhile, BrewDog is looking at developing a craft-beer-themed hotel, conference centre and distillery.

BrewDog hotel

BrewDog hotel: fad or ‘the future’?

My guess is that while some concepts will prove too faddy to have a long shelf life, others will stick and we will see new leisure concepts take off in the same way as food and beverage outlets have done over the past decade. They will become part of the whole shopping experience.

I also think now is leisure’s moment to shine. You could say that for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite action. People are so fed up with the political and global situation, they are actively looking for a bit of fun and excitement - and if it’s available at their local shopping centre, all the better.

In short: they’re game if you are.