Explaining esports to people who don’t watch it is no easy feat. It gets even harder when the people you want to teach don’t even play videogames (I’m looking at you, parents and grandparents!). The goal of this guide is to explain esports in its most basic form so that no matter what game you run into, you have knowledge of key aspects that apply to it. We will also do a quick rundown of all the most popular esports titles at the moment so that when they come up, you can say you’ve heard of them!
What is an esport?
An esports title is a videogame that gets played competitively for prize money. It’s that simple. Just like you can play soccer with your friends in your own backyard, there are also professionals who play the game with one goal in mind: to be the best. An esport can be 1v1 but more commonly games are played 5v5.
The best example of an esports title we can give here to make things even more clear is Fifa. Fifa is a soccer game that gets played on a gaming consoles instead of in the real world. One player controls team A while his opponent controls team B. Now, what happens if a bunch of people get together and want to play against each other? Right, a tournament gets organised, attracting individual players but also players who are already part of a larger team or esports organisation.
Types of players
Just like in every sport, you have amateur players and professional players. As an amateur it is possible to work hard with the aim of becoming a pro. Most esports titles have some sort of ranking system that lists players based on their performance. Most often these rankings are based on geographical regions like Europe, North America, SEA,.. A high ranking amateur player has a good chance of getting picked up by an esports organisation who will then offer him or her a contract to play under their brand name in tournaments.
Just like Real Madrid or Arsenal in soccer, these esports organisations scout for talented players worldwide to get the best possible team together in order to win the most prestigious events. In turn, this will allow them to attract sponsors who provide the organisation with a revenue stream. Any prize money won in esports usually goes to the players themselves.
Some of the biggest organisations in the esports world are Fnatic, Team SoloMid, Evil Geniuses and more.
Esports tournaments can take place offline and online. Smaller tournaments often take place online because it does require players to travel. In esports it is possible to have 5 different players located in 5 different countries who still play together in a tournament. This is one of the biggest differences with traditional sports. Bigger tournaments get played in venues in cities across the world. It’s possible even for a single tournament to take place in different countries like the League of Legends World Championship, which took place in 4 different European cities last year over the span of 4 weeks.
Prize money for these events can be a couple of thousand dollars for the first place team. For big events, these amounts quickly go up to 100,000$ and in rare occasion they even reach upwards of 1 million dollar per team.
Where to watch esports?
With the truly global nature of esports, you must wonder how people keep up with everything, as esports is not something you hear about on TV. This is where the internet comes in. Esports tournaments make use of so called streaming services. These websites, of which the biggest example is Twitch.tv, is where the esports audience gathers to watch their favorite games, teams or even individual players. 99% of these streams are free and rely on advertisements to support them. You’ll also see popular players stream themselves playing the game from home, with the option to support them by subscribing for a monthly fee or donating.
Just like traditional sports, esports also has its own websites dedicated to news about specific games and teams. Some of these sites will sound familiar to fans of traditional sports, like ESPN for example, while others like Fnatic.com will not ring a bell.
What games are being played?
League of Legends and Dota 2
These games are what we call MOBA’s or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games. In both games two teams of 5 players try to destroy a central building in the enemy base. This building is protected by towers that shoot enemy players when they come too close, so these need to be destroyed first before you can take out the main objective.
Players can choose between more than 100 different champions, which are characters in the game with certain abilities. Some of them are built to deal high amounts of damage while others have high health points and act like a “tank” and defend their team from damage, keeping them alive. Finding the best combination of these champions and adapting to the ones your opponent picks is the key to victory.
An average game takes 30-45 minutes but these matches can also last more than 60 minutes if both teams are evenly skilled.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch
These games are classified as First Person Shooters or FPS. They are played in first person view and have a heavy focus on weapons to kill your opponents, resulting in a higher score for you than them. In Counter-Strike players use realistic weapons such as knives and shotguns while Overwatch weapons and champions have more special effects such as a freeze ray or the ability to teleport.