It’s another ho-hum Sunday night and as you sit down on your couch ready to watch ESPN, you pause for a moment. Usually on your screen would be a standard highlight show. However, tonight, you’re seeing two guys on a stage in the Mandalay Bay Arena playing a video game with the winner walking away holding over forty thousand dollars.
Welcome to the high stakes, high pressure world of online competitive gaming, aka, eSports.
This article is for those who may have noticed something on Twitter about Rick Fox owning a team named Echo Fox. It’s for the parents that spend every weekend watching people play a football game but can’t understand why their child sits next to them on the phone watching some guy nicknamed Ninja playing Fortnite® on a website called Twitch®. Most importantly, this article is a wake-up call for everyone who believes there is nothing to be gained by playing “some game” and staring at a screen all day.
The term eSports is straightforward: electronic sports. Sounds simple enough, right? For this emerging subset of the sports realm, it covers a wide breadth of genres that range from First Person Shooters (FPS), Multiplayer Online Battle Arena(s) (MOBAs), Fighting Games, Real Time Strategy (RTS) to yes, even traditional Sports. eSports is the overarching umbrella that covers each genre (and its accompanying game), much like the general term Sports covers various groups that fall under it, i.e. baseball, football, soccer, et al.
The 1990s saw the inception of the ability to play other people across the world via the Internet and marked the beginning of what we know as modern eSports. During this time of home internet and the emerging LAN center, you had the games that started the competitive gaming scene such as Quake®, Counter Strike®, and Warcraft®. Over twenty years later, these three titles are holding competitions around the globe that award hundreds of thousands of dollars to gamers trying to prove that they are the best at their chosen profession.
That’s right, it is indeed a profession for the gamers that weigh the options on going to an event, rack up the airline miles, and travel the globe as a world warrior. These men and women spend their days training to perform sometimes in front of a couple hundred up to tens of thousands of screaming fans cheering and jeering their every mouse click, their every button press, and their every win or loss.
Just like all forms of professional sports, eSports has dramatically changed the way that it is presented and covered in a relatively short timeframe. It wasn’t but a few years ago that the only way you’d see the Finals of an event like Evolution®, The International®, or the League of Legends® World Championship was by going to your computer and watching it through a site like Twitch or another lesser-known application. Today, you can see these same events on ESPN, Disney, ABC, and even in-person at arenas such as the Barclays Center, Key Arena, Staples Center, or even Madison Square Garden.
While the eSports scene encompasses numerous titles, there are some you should truly know: Street Fighter V®, DOTA 2®, League of Legends®, Overwatch®, Counter Strike: Global Offensive®, and Starcraft 2®. Notably, the current eSports title that’s draining your data plan while having your child do nonsensical dance moves is Fortnite Battle Royale®. Each of these eSports represents their own community, with their own fans, and their own language.
My advice? Spend a day looking up the aforementioned titles and watch an event or two in order to understand the way in which the game is played and discover if it’s something you’re into. Remember, just because you enjoy football, doesn’t mean you’ll like baseball. With so many options, eSports is the same, but maybe you just might become a fan of our very own Houston Outlaws and Overwatch.