One of the best things about sports is the way that there’s something for everyone. The sheer amount and diversity of sports means that people who enjoy many different things can tune in and find a sport that they enjoy. In the last few decades, a new category of sport has joined the likes of baseball, basketball and football: Esports.
Esports are video games being played professionally at a highly competitive level. In the same way as you have pros in things like Basketball, there are now pros in a variety of esports like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Dota 2, and Fortnite. What began as an industry in back rooms and crowded auditoriums now fills stadiums worldwide, with top players making six figures in most of the tier-1 games.
The most popular esport in the world is, rather undisputedly, League of Legends. Worlds, the largest event for League of Legends each year — where teams from the different regions come together to compete — reportedly got over 100 millions views in 2019, including a peak of 44 million live viewers for the final between FunPlus Phoenix and G2.
Generally, esports games fall into a few categories. There are FPS, or First Person Shooter, games like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty. These games rely primarily on aim as they focus nearly entirely on your ability to get your character to shoot opponents before they can shoot you. Then there are MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, like League of Legends and Dota 2. In these games, each player plays a character who has certain abilities and works with their team to kill their opponents, build items, and take down the enemy’s base.
The newest section of esports are the Battle Royales. These encompass games like Fortnite or Pubg. In Battle Royales, one player or a small squad of players drop into a large map and have to gather guns and items to take down the other players or teams, competing to be the last person standing. Battle Royales, despite being the newest, have been massively influential over the esports scene with Fortnite’s meteoric rise into popular culture leading to more and more people discovering the esports community. There are other types of games, such as card games like Hearthstone, or old favorites like Starcraft, but most popular esports today fall into these categories.
While the esports industry has been growing at a remarkable rate, the college level of esports has grown more slowly. Some games now offer organized collegiate-level competition, like League of Legends yearly Collegiate tournament for North American teams, but most college programs are still a grassroots movement run by third-party organizers like Tespa.
Here at UConn, the UConn Gaming Club runs some esports events each year. They typically host both a Winter and Spring event that involve esports for multiple games, and members of the club participate in collegiate level esports for games like Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2.
The yearly Husky Games competition allows people to gain experience with esports events outside of just playing. People can cast the different games or help to supervise or run the tournament, which provides valuable experience to anyone who is considering looking for a place in the esports community or just who likes esports in general.
Esports provide a valuable boost to the sporting industry, bringing in a generation growing further apart from sports like baseball, which has repeatedly done poorly with younger viewers. Esports fills that gap for many people as a combination of things that our generation loves: competition and video games. It is, for people who love traditional sports or for those who hate them, a chance to get behind a team you believe in and try to cheer them on to success. It’s a sense of community with those who support the same teams or players, where everyone is pushing for the same thing as if their voices can make their team a little bit better.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.