eSports, also known as competitive gaming, are organized video game competitions, contested by professional players, that offer monetary prizes. eSports have been around for decades, beginning with small arcade tournaments in the 1980’s and growing from there.
Since the 2000s, eSports have seen a meteoric rise. Games such as Counter-Strike and StarCraft saw large scale leagues and tournament circuits arise, with teams of full-time professional players forming to compete. Organizations such as Major League Gaming started creating a framework for competition and sought to bring stability to the young industry.
Today, eSports are a a billion dollar industry. In 2014 alone 89 million people watched a collective 3.7 billion hours of eSports content. More people watched the League of Legends World Championship than the World Series, NBA Finals, or the Stanley Cup Finals. Defense of the Ancients 2015 International Championship had a higher prize purse than that year’s Masters. This year, a professional Counter-Strike league with a $2.4 million prize purse will appear in prime-time on TBS.
Most eSports have many similarities to traditional sports: They’re team games where coordination, fast reactions, quick thinking, and team work are essential to success. Counter-Strike is similar to baseball in that teams take turns playing offense, attempting to destroy specific targets. League of Legends is a lot like football where teams attempt to invade each other’s territory and destroy the enemy’s base.
To help professional players reach their potential, infrastructure has sprung up around games with significant professional competition. Teams hire coaches, sports psychologists, physical training coaches, and other support staff common in traditional sports.
Unsurprisingly, major figures from the sports world have taken notice. ESPN recently aired Heroes of the Dorm, a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament will full ride scholarships for the winning teams. Three time NBA champion Rick Fox recently purchased a League of Legends and Counter-Strike team and re-named the organization to Echo Fox. Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neal have purchased stakes in NRG eSports, another organization with teams in multiple games.
eSports are played by people of all ages and genders but players tend to be teenagers or young professionals. eSports are also truly international games. Players can team up and compete with people from anywhere in the world.