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For the uninitiated, esports are confusing. You’ve probably heard of esports or watched news stories about the rise of professional video game players. You may have even seen people like Ninja come across your Facebook feed.
But who are these people and what are they talking about?
That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss today. In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to get a basic understanding of esports and the culture that surrounds it.
What are Esports?
When people talk about esports (a.k.a. electronic sports, eSports or e-sports), they are referring to competitive video game playing.
It is different from recreational video games because there is a competitive aspect. In fact, there are esport competitions where players compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Esports is a category of sports and is not specific to a particular game. In fact, within the overall category of esports, there are genres of games that involve different styles of play.
A few of the most popular esport genres and games include:
First-Person Shooter (FPS)
- Call of Duty
Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
- Starcraft 1 & 2
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
- League of Legends
- Defense of the Ancient (DOTA)
- Street Fighter
- Super Smash Bros.
- Gran Tourismo
- NBA 2K
We won’t get into describing what each genre is like because that would take far too long.
Just know this: each genre is very different from the other genres.
Some are more heavily focused on strategy while others are focused on pure reaction speed and instinct (while most games require a combination of both).
The most popular esport games in 2020 are games in the MOBA genre, with League of Legends leading the way in terms of viewership and participation.
For a near-complete list of esport games and descriptions, check out this thorough Wikipedia page.
The History of Esports
Competitive video game playing has been around for nearly 50 years. Early competitions were mostly based on trying to beat the high score of single-player arcade games. In the early days before internet connections, gamers would travel all over the world to face the best head to head competition.
The rise of modern esports can be attributed to the internet and broadband connections in the early 2000s. Online games like Counterstrike and Starcraft: Brood War exploded in popularity and South Korea was definitely at the forefront. In fact, in the 2000s, esports began appearing on television in South Korea, with some stations dedicated to 24 hour coverage.
Fast forward to 2020 and the esports phenomenon has spread across the globe.
Who Plays Esports?
This may come as a surprise, but just about every demographic in every country plays esports.
While esports became a national phenomenon in Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, their popularity has quickly spread to every corner of the globe with a speedy internet connection.
The growth of esports has been tremendous. According to a NewZoo report, there is expected to be 250 million esports enthusiasts by 2021.
Do People Get Paid to Play Esports?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament in Moscow, Russia on September 14, 2019. Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock.com
Yes, people get paid to play esports. Some gamers are raking in six-figure salaries and prize packages for large tournaments are well over $1 million.
NewZoo estimates that the total revenues for the esports industry will be about $1650 million in 2021, with a small portion of that going to the actual participants.
Esports gamers can earn money through winning competitions, selling merchandise and through generating revenue through online streaming services like Twitch.
Will Esports Ever Be in the Olympics?
That’s a great question and the answer is more than likely, “yes.” Most experts agree that it’s just a matter of time before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gives esports the green light for Olympic competition.
While fans are eagerly waiting for esports in the Olympics, they can already enjoy Olympic-sanctioned esports tournaments. These aren’t part of the actual Olympic Games, but like we said, it’s only a matter of time.
- 106.2 million - The number of viewers of a the 2017 League of Legends Championship. (Source)
- 306 million - The number of expected “occasional” esports viewers in 2021. (Source)
- $25.5 million - The total prize pool for the Dota 2 International Championship. (Source)
- 49.5 million hours - The League of Legends World Championship was the most watched event on Twitch in 2017 with 49.5 million hours. (Source)
- 274.7 million hours - The total number of hours logged by League of Legends views on Twitch in 2017. (Source)