Everything You Need to Know About Esports
The world is bigger than you think. In sports, a new industry has emerged with dedicated fans across the globe, teams you want to cheer, and stadiums filled with roaring crowds.
But this world is not your traditional sports experience. Believe it or not, this world is the world of competitive video game playing, or esports.
For those new to esports, this world may seem hard to believe. How can playing video games sell out stadiums? What led to this popularity? Who is involved?
Here is everything you need to know about esports.
The Definition of 'Esports'
The written definition for "esports," as defined by dictionary.com, is "competitive tournaments of video games, especially among professional gamers."
That is only the beginning.
Esports is not one game like regular sports. In fact, it is many different competitive games. And whether or not esports is "real" sports remains a debate today.
Currently, the United States government has recognized professional esports players as professional athletes. This recognition means foreign players wanting to play professionally in the U.S. require government work visas.
How It All Started
Esports has much more global influence now than when it all started.
Some argue esports' origins can be traced back to South Korea in the early 2000s. During this time PC bangs — or electric cafes, game centers, where one can rent a computer to play multiplayer video game games — were becoming popular. The big deal was that people now could play the original "Starcraft" competitively against each other.
These matchups grew big enough to have competitions broadcast over television. Hence, the creation of a Korean television channel, OGN, which focused on video-game related content esports matches.
How Do I Play?
Getting into esports is not as difficult or expensive as you may think.
Despite many advertisements for high-end computers, extra peripherals, and more products for the gaming market, you only really need (like other sports) the basic items to begin and become a part of the scene.
Many professional players today have come from humble beginnings, so players get used to dealing with bad internet connections from Hawaii when their game’s server is in Los Angeles.
Today, all you need is the game you want to compete in, and some type of system that can run the game.
And the best part of having a wide selection of games, if you don’t like one game, you can choose another.
Where Do I Play?
One of the best reasons to play competitive video games is that you can play from the comfort of your home. You can form a team from across the country, or the globe, and still play together.
In the professional scene, it’s a bit different. Some games, such as League of Legends, have regular seasons and regularly scheduled games played at their designated studios.
Other times, online tournaments are held to qualify for bigger in-person tournaments.
What Leagues Are There?
One of the more interesting aspects of esports is that there are different kinds of "seasons," depending on the game. Again, League of Legends has regular seasons, similar to regular sports, across the globe with the top teams representing their region in the world championship.
Dota 2, a game within the same genre as League of Legends, has an equivalent event, "The International." Some teams are invited to the event while others have to compete for a spot.
Each game handles competitive games in a wide spectrum of ways.
How Are These Players 'Athletes'?
Esports has a common observation: How are the players defined as "athletes"?
True, it does not take much physical strength to play video games. The "athleticism" is revealed when one realizes what goes into becoming the best at a game.
Professional players require lightning reflexes, mental fortitude, predictions of their opponents, muscle memory, split-second decision-making, and much more. All of these qualities resemble those required of physical athletes.
Where's the Money?
Like regular sports, esports is a business. And businesses have investors. Esports is no different.
Look at how many types of investors the League of Legends professional scene can have. The team Echo Fox is indirectly supported by the New York Yankees. Other teams such as the Golden Guardians are a direct product of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
The game’s professional scene itself is sponsored as well. And, of course, there are many more sponsors and investors than the ones just mentioned.
The rise of esports’ popularity, while becoming more known, is still unbelievable to some. Right now, esports’ mainstream presence has become more known, but still gets overshadowed by its physical counterparts.
Occasionally, though, esports will show its own light from behind.
To compare viewership, let’s use the League of Legends World Championship and the NFL’s Super Bowl. Super Bowl LIII had an average of 98 million viewers in 2019, after LII had an average of 103.4 million viewers in 2018.
The entire League of Legends World Championship averaged 46.6 million, with the final match peaking at 205 million.
Where Are These Games Happening?
To say that esports events are happening all over the globe would not be an overstatement. Whether it's regularly scheduled seasons, tournaments, or just get-togethers, competitive games create opportunities for communities to come together and enjoy the game.
Many different games have major tournaments that are hosted in different countries every year. The United States, Germany, China, Belgium, Philippines, Katowice, Canada, Japan, and many more countries hold huge events for their esports.
Sometimes, a game will go to multiple countries in one year.
Many professional players will fly to these events to compete.
Where Can I Follow the Games?
Like traditional sports, just about every esports game has forms of social media.
Overwatch, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and many more games use Twitter to announce news, share highlights and interact with fans.
Other thing are similar to traditional sports’ Twitter.
And ,of course, teams have their own social media accounts to share their own news and highlights with their fans.
So How Much Money Is Involved?
Of course, the big questions involve money. This topic is a bit broad. Therefore, here are some answers to some general questions that people have about esports and competitive gaming.
Many tournaments do have money prize pools. Some tournaments, such as the Evolution Championship Series (better known as EVO), have prize pools depending on their attendance and what their sponsors give.
Some competitive games’ leagues and their participating teams implement "permanent partnerships" and franchising, such as the League of Legends’ League Championship Series (LCS) and Overwatch’s Overwatch League, similar to those of regular sports.
And lastly, organizations' players are regularly paid with benefits, as with any other sport or company, in general. And sometimes, a player’s game’s ruleset requires at least compensation (see 2.2 of the official rules) for the players.
Who Can Play?
One of the best selling point of esports is that a professional player can come from anywhere.
While professional competitive players may seem like they are unbeatable, they all started at the bottom. But they kept playing and practicing until they started winning. And when that happens, people notice.
Sometimes, those "people" are professional organizations that hire these players to join their organization.
Sometimes, games want to help "up and coming" rookies get a chance at the spotlight, such as the LCS' scouting grounds.
What Celebrities Are in the Esports Game?
Some well-known celebrities are invested in esports.
One is former Los Angeles Lakers player Rick Fox, whom many esports fans consider the spokesperson for the community. With some help and inspiration from his son, Kyle, Fox realized the potential growth of esports and went on to create the organization Echo Fox. And since then, he has cared for his players and their careers, going as far as appearing on national television (multiple times) to advocate for esports.
Other celebrities involved in esports include Magic Johnson (Team Liquid), Steph Curry (TSM), Shaquille O’Neal (NRG), Jimmy Rollins (NRG), and even Jennifer Lopez (NRG).
Is this all that esports has to offer? Amazingly, this is only the beginning for esports.
Many people within the industry know that competitive gaming still can grow.
Competitive gaming still receives a negative stereotype from those who do not participate in it. But many people want to change that view. They want everyone to realize that competitive gaming players can be just as intense, fun, exciting, and athletic as regular sports.
Team owners, executives and players all want to show the world that within 10 years, the esports industry will be the next biggest thing.