The GIST's Guide to Esports

This isn’t Back to the Future and you’re not dreaming… video games are now a part of the sporting world! Here’s #thegist of what you should know.

esports arena.jpg


Unlike the more traditional sports (soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey etc.) that have been around for decades, esports is a newer ‘sport’ to hit mainstream markets. The simplest way to think about them is as “electronic sports.” Essentially, esports is competitive/professional video gaming. Esports is kind of an umbrella term similar to saying “sports” as there isn’t one specific video game that all competitors play. So take football, basketball and soccer and sub that in for League of Legends, Overwatch and Dota 2. Make sense?

How are esports organized?

Esports are normally played in tournaments. In its infancy, esports tournaments were predominantly played online. However, in the early 2010s, streaming and esports took off and these gaming tournaments started taking place IRL.

Nowadays, there are thousands of tournaments around the world being hosted online and offline where competitors vie for millions of dollars in prize money. That’s right. These high-level gamers are competing professionally for a chance to win millions of dollars for playing their favourite video game. Literally living the dream. Apparently our parents may have been wrong when they said: “go outside, play in the sunshine, it’s good for you.”

Back up, what do you mean tournaments?

We totally get it — it’s hard to picture. The same way you play a soccer tournament, gamers play against each other in teams of players or individually. It’s generally round-robin style with the winner of each game moving on to some sort of playoff. Tournaments can be played and watched online, but when they’re hosted IRL, they’re normally played in large stadiums or arenas where fans can watch too. Some tournaments are even held in the same arenas as major league sports like the Rogers Centre in Vancouver and Barclay’s Centre in New York. Pretty cool, right?

Both these major sporting arenas have hosted million dollar tournaments — the Rogers Centre hosted a $25.5M tournament called ‘The International’ this past summer and the Barclay’s Centre hosted the Overwatch League Grand Finals where the winners walked away with a cool half million in prize money. Just a couple of casual millionaires from playing video games.

How big is esports? Why is it all the rage these days?

Esports is a big, big industry and it’s been rapidly growing for years. By the year 2020, sources estimate the global esports industry will be worth OVER $1.65B. Damn.

One of the biggest reasons for industry growth is the investments being made by traditional sport owners like Robert Kraft. Kraft owns the New England Patriots, and also purchased the pro esports team, the Boston Uprising, from the Overwatch League. The COO of the New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon, also owns the New York Excelsior from the Overwatch League. Three-time NBA Champion Rick Fox, yes THE Rick Fox, bought a League of Legends team called the Gravity Gaming and renamed it Echo Fox. His purchase was largely based on the bond Rick and his son had built while playing League of Legends. What better way to bond over a mutual love of a video game than buying a professional team!? Don’t you wish your dad was like Rick Fox?

The games

Not all video games are played professionally (e.g., you won’t find a Sims league in esports). However, there are a lot of different “leagues” out there. And that’s really the beauty of esports — there is something for everyone. Do you enjoy fast-paced shooting games? You should check out CS:GO. Do you fancy a fantasy-based game where strategy is at the forefront? Dota 2 might be your next obsession. Are you a huge soccer fan? Rocket League is basically monster trucks playing soccer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and literally anyone and everyone can play.

And that’s why we love esports so much — unlike a lot of traditional sports where physical fitness is key (so a lot of athletes retire around the age of 40), esports players don’t have to worry about ageing out of the game. You can be a professional esports player at any age so long as you can play the game!

The international superstars

Lets take a look at some of the top gamers in the world:

Dota 2: Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Germany) has been playing Dota 2 for almost a decade and recently became the highest net earner at an astonishing $4M USD in annual income. He surpasses every other esports player in the entire industry. Damn!

League of Legends: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (Korea) is the highest paid League of Legends player with net earnings of over $1.1M USD and he reportedly makes $2.5M USD a year with his team SK Telecom T1.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth (Denmark) is CS:GO’s highest earning player with an impressive total of $965k USD. At time of writing, Xyp9x has won six of their past ten major tournaments.

Where our girls at?

The sad reality in esports is that women are still being left out of professional teams. Esports has predominantly been a “man’s world” with issues of sexism and misogyny running rampant. Ugh. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY women competing.

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon (Overwatch), Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey (CS:GO), Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (Starcraft II), and Kristen “KittyPlays” Michaela (Fortnite) are some of the top female players. Although women make up half the population of amateur gamers, we’re still incredibly under-represented in pro-gaming esports. Slowly more women are being signed to top tier organizations but it’s a slow process.

Did you know...

  • That “The International”, Dota 2’s biggest tournament of the year, has the record for the world’s largest esports prize pool of over $25M USD!

  • Professional esports players train the same way traditional athletes do. They focus on their health, physical fitness (reaction times are KEY) and mental stamina.

  • Did you know that esports gaming chairs (yes, if you’re going to be playing a long time you want to make sure you’re well equipped) can cost as much as $3k?! Just wild. Check out the most expensive chairs in the world here.

That’s #thegist of it!

Written by Guest Writer: Gillian Scott

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