APEX in Profile: Sarah Eales

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Image via Panasonic Avionics

Sarah is a passionate gamer and esports advocate with the goal of modernizing the in-flight gaming experience. She started at Panasonic Avionics as an intern and has led the development of the company’s first in-flight gaming and esports strategy.

Fast Facts:
Location: SNA
Now listening to: Hello Internet podcast
Last Internet search: “Xbox 2020 release date”
Favorite follow on Twitter: @eatyourkimchi
Hobbies: 3-D art and animation

Panasonic Avionics has announced an exclusive collaboration with the League of Legends Championship Series. What does this deal mean for the industry?
This partnership is a huge step forward in bringing the genre of esports to an even larger global audience. For non-gamers, I think it shows that esports is not just a trend. With LCS and their other regional leagues, Riot Games has created an ecosystem of teams and players, which like traditional sports has viewers who are willing to invest their time into the genre for the long term.

Which gaming trends do you think have the potential of taking off in IFE?
Mobile gaming has made such huge advancements even in just this past year. The ability for console-quality games to scale down to the capabilities of a smartphone or tablet makes gaming more accessible and widens the demographic of gamers. With the success of Nintendo Switch and the rise of mobile gaming, indie games have gained a larger spotlight. As someone who’s passionate about indie gaming, I would love to see this trend take off in flight.

As engaging as esports are to watch, is the ultimate goal to have airline passengers playing – perhaps with others in the cabin?
There is definitely a desire for competitive games in flight, but I think the greater value comes from games that are collaborative. The success of Overcooked is a great example of a game that balances competition and collaboration. I believe that passengers will play games more often and for greater duration when playing together.

How did you get into gaming and what are your gaming habits?
I got into gaming when I was about nine years old with my first Game Boy and Pokémon Red, which I played every day on the bus to school. My passion for gaming has only grown since. I play on average three to four hours a night, playing mostly indie, MMO [massively multiplayer online] and RPG [role-playing games] games. My main game right now is Final Fantasy XIV online.

Which game is everyone playing right now?
Even though I don’t play it too often, Fortnite is still one of the most talked about and played games. So many different demographics of gamers like Fortnite because there are so many different ways to play it. There is a whole side of that game that is exploratory, silly and creative – it’s not just about the competitive shooting.

How do you take gaming on the go?
I never travel without my Nintendo Switch. Most of my time waiting at the gate or during a layover is spent playing my Switch. Sometimes I will bring my gaming laptop and peripherals (headset, controller, gaming mouse), but that would depend on the length of the trip.

Every job has a cool factor, what’s yours?
Getting to meet and discuss with game developers (some that I have been a fan of my whole life) about how bringing their games to Panasonic’s IFE platform can delight travelers globally.

APEX in Profile: Sarah Eales was originally published in the 10.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine

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