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Explainer: An Esports Beginner’s Guide

Explainer: An Esports Beginner’s Guide

The days of parents telling children to “put down those games” are over. Esports is a way for gamers to make a living off of a wide variety of games through competitions and gaming contracts with sports organizations. But is it really a sport? ESPN and the Olympic Games seem to think so. Why are players considered “athletes?” Can anyone play? You will find answers to these questions and more in this esports beginner’s guide.

What is esports? 

It’s a mostly organized multiplayer gaming structure with millions of spectators. Think Tennis US Open but with athletes seated at gaming stations rather than darting across a tennis court. These games are on personal computers, Playstation 4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch, Mobile and the list goes on. There can be competition as long as more than one player is involved.

In this guide, we will talk about two types of gaming structures: team competitions and solo competitions. For example, League of Legends or LoL is a team competition that saw more than 200 million viewers, and a prize pool of $6.45 million for the 2018 world championship. For this game, two teams of five go head to head in a battle to destroy the other’s base or nexus. When the nexus is destroyed the game is over.

The 2019 Fortnite World Cup is a solo competition and saw a little over 2 million concurrent views with a $30 million prize pool. In this game, competitors played against 99 other competitors to be the last person standing in the virtual arena. The 16-year-old gamer, Bugha, won the competition and took home $3 million.

Gaming leagues hold their own competitions annually. These companies often create separate regional leagues such as the LoL League in North America also known as the League Championship Series or LCS. These leagues are analogous to major sports leagues such as MLB and NBA. Some Leagues, like the Hearthstone Grandmasters, incorporate the entire player base into an international league. 

Is it really a sport? 

In short, Yes. Esports tend to carry the same competitive nature, organizational structure, and fervent fan craze as the traditional sports we know and love. Esports athletes put in countless hours to keep up with their competitors and organizational standards.

Players can make millions in their careers either solo or as an integral part of a team. There are three main criteria for top gamers to earn their winnings: performance, popularity, and championship payoffs.

Esports and traditional sports are not as different as you’d think. Players can be traded to different teams just like in traditional sports. These players sometimes join teams outside their country and America recognizes these players as athletes by providing them P-1 athletic work visas. This legitimizes esports to many fans because famous players in the NBA like Yao Ming also used one to play internationally. 

The premier esports organizations like Team Liquid, Fnatics, and Team Solo Mid have teams in different games during every season. For example, Team Solo Mid has separate players for both LoL and Overwatch that compete in their respective leagues. These hired athletes can work alone or in teams to crush their competition in first-person-shooters, combat, strategy and racing games. These gaming organizations make money winning competitions, gathering sponsorships, and selling merchandise to their fan base.

Can anyone play? 

Hypothetically, yes. The NBA, NFL, and MLB draft thousands of athletes. There are built-in ranking systems for these games that allow sports organizations to see the best players. From there, they reach out to these players and oftentimes hold tryouts among them. Players can even start a Twitch stream to gain popularity and attention from esports organizations or, if applicable, attempt to join a collegiate league in the Esport of their interest.

So go ahead, pick up a controller, mouse, or Nintendo nunchuck. You never know if you could qualify to be on an esports team in your school or hometown to win big cash prizes. If this esports beginner’s guide left you questioning the industry, DM us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Happy gaming!

About The Author


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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