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Are They the Athletes of the Future?

Alex Koltz, Cactus Contributor

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The massive rise of eSports has created a new type of athlete: the professional gamer. While gaming is often times associated with the basement dweller types than with worldwide celebrities making six figures a year, these mouse jockeys are the real deal. For those who are unaware, eSports are video games played at a highly competitive level against other teams of top players from around the world. The players on teams who do well can expect to gain fame, fortune, and twitter followers. These tournaments range in scale from smaller local tourneys with only a few teams to world-wide events such as “The International” a massive annual tournament for the popular online game DOTA 2 with an overall total prize pool of over ten million dollars.

A large contributor to eSports’ massive growth and success is its encompassing accessibility. Anyone with a decent computer and an internet connection can take part in the gaming scene. This low barrier to entry has led to a very large and passionate audience.

Many pro gamers also pad their income by streaming themselves playing online. This way their fans and those looking to watch a pro play, in order to improve at the game themselves, have direct access to their favorite athlete. This is a unique aspect of eSports and it is not only the pro players that are making tons of money. The rise of eSports has created a new wave of online personalities on sites such as twitch.tv, whose users watched 16 billion minutes per month in 2014. These platforms also make watching eSports tournaments online easy with matches being able to be streamed live right to any device such as a computer, console, tablet, or phone. No pricey sports package required.

League of Legends, one of the largest online games, boasting hundreds of millions of registered players has even started its own regular eSports league called the “League Championship series”. The League Championship Series or “LCS” is composed of two separate regions: the EU LCS for the European region, and the North American LCS or NA LCS. Other regions have their own league such as the Korean Online Gaming Network. These leagues have regular seasons, just like any other traditional sport, with teams comprised of players on a regular roster who make a salary for playing in the same manner that any other professional athlete would.

This exponential growth of the eSports scene over the last few years has not gone unnoticed. However, the reactions are mixed. There are people who believe that playing videos games should not be considered a sport; however, even well-established sports networks such as: ESPN are starting to include eSports events into some of their programming. Yes, kids of the world can now rejoice that indeed their eight hour binges playing their favorite video games could potentially become a career! While the chances of playing video games for a living are almost as slim as that of becoming any other type of professional athlete, the barrier to entry for eSports is much lower. In conclusion, eSports is huge, growing, and not going away anytime soon.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);

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