WTF Is “Esports”?

If you’re old enough to vote, you’ve probably got fond memories of sitting on a couch with your buddies playing splitscreen multiplayer games like Super Smash Bros., Call of Duty, or Goldeneye. While the competition got fierce sometimes, these games were mostly played just for fun. You’d sit down for a gaming session with your friends, and it didn’t really matter who “won.” The only thing on the line was bragging rights. These days, however, things have gotten a lot more competitive. If you’re good enough at a particular video game, you can end up raking in some serious cash as a professional player.

The world of competitive gaming, or, as it’s commonly referred to, “esports,” is a multibillion dollar industry. Teams regularly compete at tournaments for their share of massive prize pools that can, at events like The International 2016, go as high as $20 million. Large esports organizations, such as Cloud9, Team SoloMid, and FaZe Clan, are legitimizing esports.They’re taking cues from traditional sports by offering players contracts, signing bonuses, sponsorship deals from major brands, as well as the support of coaching staff. The most popular esports titles include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Dota 2, League of Legends, and, more recently, Blizzard’s hit game Overwatch.

If you’re reading this and thinking that it’s time to quit your day job to seek your fortune as a pro gamer, you might want to hold off for now. You can’t just be “good” at a video game and expect to go pro. You have to be really, really, really good. Lightning-fast reaction times, precision, and high-level strategic thinking are all must-haves in the world of competitive gaming, and only the best players in the world are going to catch the attention of sponsors and organizations. Professional gamers often practice for 6-8 hours a day, and some make international trips nearly every weekend to compete at tournaments. These face-to-face matches, which regularly fill stadiums around the world, are referred to as “LANs.” These events are where the serious money–and serious competition–is found.

Convincing people to care about esports can be hard sometimes, and it’s understandable if you’re still on the fence about whether or not competitive gaming is a “real thing.” That being said, the numbers don’t lie: 14,000,000 people tuned in to Twitch, an online streaming platform that freely broadcasts esports events, to watch League of Legends teams compete at Worlds 2015. We’re even starting to see esports on TV, with matches from Turner’s “ELEAGUE” tournament regularly airing on TBS. It’s a great time to be an esports fan.

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