Josh Otero
By Josh Otero

The Rise of Esports


In the year 2021, It is projected that 645 million people worldwide will watch esports[1]; an astounding number given how new esports are in the competitive entertainment industry. At the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice in 2017, the event held competitions for three popular esports titles: Counter-strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), League of Legends, And StarCraft taking place in Spodak Arena in Katowice, Poland, 173,000 live spectators filled the arena to watch the event[2]. This number exceeds the live audience of Superbowl LIII by more than double, filling the stadium with only 75,000 live viewers. This rapidly rising industry is no fluke. Approximately 20% of the world actively plays some form of video games for an average of an hour per day.[3]


People turn to esports to watch the players who have mastered the game that the average person plays on a daily basis, just like how people watch traditional sports like basketball and football because they grew up playing and love that sport.


Esports has become more widespread because internet speeds have progressed enough to allow people to live stream eSport events on their computer. Internet speeds are up 30% worldwide in the past year alone.[4] The only thing holding esports from being one of the most popular sports in the world is accessibility, which will naturally improve immensely in the next decade. It is very possible that we see esports as an Olympic sport sometime in the near future.


Esports at its Core:

Esports titles can be organized into five different categories: First-Person Shooters (FPS), Real-Time Strategy (RTS), Multi-Online Battle Arena (MOBA), Battle Royale, and Fighting Games. Esports players compete in specific games that they master. First-Person Shooters are games centered around weapon-based combat, usually a gun, and is played in a first-person perspective. In other words, you see through the eyes of your character. The most common FPS games in Esports are Call of Duty and CSGO. Real-Time Strategy is a genre of game that requires the player to maneuver units and structure in real-time to counter their opponent. 


The most common games for RTS in Esports are StarCraft and Warcraft. Multi-Online Battle Arenas are similar to RTS as a strategic game, however, in a MOBA, the player plays as a single character and usually has specific abilities for their character. The most common MOBA games are League of Legends and Dota. Battle Royale is a relatively new genre of Esports and is based on the concept of 100 people dropping into a map and only one person or team wins the game. Battle Royales have been very popular lately with games like Fortnite and PUBG. Fighting Games are thought of as one of the oldest esports genres. 


Fighting games take place in a small arena between a small number of players (usually 2 to 4). Common esport fighting games are Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

Esport players will usually specialize in one game in one genre of gaming and master their craft. Organizations like Cloud9 or 100 Thieves will field teams for all of the major esports games and recruit the most skilled players in the world to play for their organization. The team is sent to tournaments to compete for prize money under their organization’s name. You will see a lot of the same organizations across different games. You can think of it as if the New York Yankees also had a Yankees in the MLB along within the NFL, NBA, NHL, and more. Esports at its core has so many complex aspects even while it is still in its infant stage.


Esports as a Sport:


Many people argue against esports, saying things like “Esports isn’t a sport.” People usually believe this because it requires less physical exertion than a traditional sport. This seems like a subjective opinion. Looking at sports like golf, basketball, darts, and hockey, it seems like there is no common ground between them. The only thing people seem to agree on is that a sport has a score and there are winners and losers. ESPN, the most popular sports network, broadcasts many events like the hotdog eating contest and the spelling bee.


Esports are much more competitive, strategic, and intense than these competitions that have been deemed sports. In some peoples’ eyes, they see competitive gaming as simply “just clicking buttons” but by this logic, soccer is simply just kicking a ball around and basketball is just putting a ball in a hoop. The reality of esports is that you could never fathom how strategic and challenging esports is without watching an event.


In many ways, esports players have to deal with a lot of things that athletes in other sports don’t have to deal with. Esports players are responsible for adapting to changes in their game. When the game developers believe that a certain strategy or playstyle in a game is too overpowered, they release a “patch” that makes the game more balanced for certain playstyles. — A “buff” is the term for making a certain mechanic in a game stronger while a “nerf” is the term for making a game mechanic weaker.


Esport players need to pay attention to these buffs and nerfs to strategize the most effective playstyle. Think of it as if the NBA shrunk the hoop of if they suddenly implemented playing with two basketballs instead of one. 


These patches force Esport players to change the way they play the game on almost a weekly basis.


Performance of Esports Players:

There is a new wave of esports players who are training for their craft in a similar way to how traditional sports athletes train. In the past, esports players have usually trained for their game by simply playing their game for endless hours every day. However, just like how traditional sports have been transformed by computer analysis and statistical data, esports is being transformed by a wave of exercise and nutrition. The argument over if esports players are athletes will continue but, in the meantime, gamers are increasingly training like athletes. An esports team named Rfrsh Entertainment hired Kasper Hvidt in 2017 to act as their Sporting Director. Hvidt did not come from a background in gaming but was previously a captain for the Denmark national Handball team. He came in to enforce an emphasis on health and nutrition for the team.


The companies CSGO team hadn’t won a single tournament in almost a year before Hvidt was hired but the very next year, the team earned 3.7 million dollars in prize money, proving to be one of the most dominant years by any esports team in history.[5]


It is no secret that having a healthy body makes you more emotionally stable and focused. Soon, many teams will begin to train like the new wave of successful esports teams currently are. Sugary energy drinks, fast food, and not working out will soon be a thing of the past for esports plays, which will inevitably get players more credit from the crowd that says esports players are not athletes.