Esports have existed since 1972 and have drastically increased in popularity in the past 20 years. Teams have begun to receive massive sponsorships from companies such as the New England Patriots, Golden State Warriors, Chipotle, CashApp, Puma, Nike, and so many more. These companies have been operating like NASCAR sponsorships, where they pay for branding on jerseys, buildings, and content. Most games probably have some sort of competitive scene, but the ones that are especially thriving right now are Smash Bros, Fortnite, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Valorant, et cetera. The primary way for people to watch these games are on Twitch or YouTube, but occasionally large events are even broadcasted on ESPN 2, which brings us to the naysayers. When ESPN 2 broadcasts esports content, a lot of people chime in with their opinion that esports aren’t sports. Well, I am here to tell you they are flat out wrong.
Reason 1 why esports are real sports: the money. Some games pay more than others, but the reality is that the big games pay some big bucks. Games like League of Legends produce players like Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Luka “Perkz” Perković have made millions of dollars off of recent contracts. In CS:GO, players like Nicholas “nitr0” Canella and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev have had contract buyouts in the millions as well. The North American League of Legends professional scene averages over $200,000 per year. These players make legit salaries and can be completely classified as professional players. Teams like 100 Thieves and TSM have bases of operations that cost tens of millions of dollars, and an organization in South Korea is in the works on developing a portion of a city that will cost up to $1 billion. There is some BIG money in esports.
Reason 2 why esports are real sports: the work. Players work insanely hard to improve their game of choice. To give you an understanding of what a work week looks like I will go over the typical League of Legends professional’s week. In the beginning of January, practice begins. Days will consist of 5 scrimmage games against a given team, reviewing the videos of the games played (similar to reviewing tape in football), and having meetings on strategies they want to implement in the coming week. Once their official workday is done, most players will then play “Solo Queue”. Solo queue means they are going and playing ranked games on their own against random players online. Some players will stream these games to get an additional source of income, but it is mostly done for additional practice. On Fridays through Sundays, they have their official matches, which typically occur in the afternoon. There is then an opening tournament mid-January, followed by the start of the spring games. There is then a mid-season tournament, followed by an international tournament. Then they finish the regular season and go into the playoffs. After the playoffs, there is one more international tournament. The League of Legends season lasts from the start of the year until the end of October, so players really do not get much time off, aside from failing to qualify for any of these extra tournaments. The point is here is that they spend similar hours honing their skills in their game of choice as football or soccer players do working out, reviewing tape, and practicing.
In reality, esports aren’t for everyone. They can be much more complex and harder to grasp than traditional sports are to the average viewer. But to the professional player this is their livelihood, its not ‘just a game’ or ‘just for fun’ it’s real. Try telling Tom Brady that he shouldn’t care so much about winning because football is “just a game”. You wouldn’t, and it’s the same thing here.