It’s no surprise that one of the most common requests we had for new programming was Esports. Kids have been playing video games for decades, but so much has changed over the last few years that gaming really is turning into a professional sport in many ways. People can now stream Esports tournaments on services like Twitch and Youtube; many of these videos have tens of millions of views. High Schools and even governments around the world are recognizing Esports as a “traditional” sport. Video games have changed from a hobby to an industry and is the fastest growing sport, valued as a $138 billion industry! Since the massive rise in popularity, we have also seen a major shift in many areas:
Increase in industry standards and regulations
Stigma around video games is going away
Awareness of Esports as a positive impact on students
JKCP has decided to start an Esports camp largely because of these reasons! We have seen how much students enjoy games, how they can bring kids together and if adults can offer industry and career advice, Esports can provide many great opportunities to players.
What is Esports?
Let’s start with the basics. Esports, which stands for Electronic Sports, are competitive video games played between players or teams. They are essentially the organized sports world of gaming. Similar to traditional sports, most participants are not professionals, just people that play for love of the game. However, in the past few years, there has been a rapid rise of professional Esports athletes. As they become more popular to play and watch, the market has grown exponentially, which you can read more about in our blog The Future of Esports & Growth in Competitive Gaming. The increased popularity and funding has led to greater organization, more Esports teams, prize money for tournaments, spectators and Esports leagues.
Everything Parents Need to Know:
If you are a parent of a child who is showing an interest in Esports we are here to help you understand this new world. Here are the top 4 things we think parents should know about Esports:
1. Socializing. There is a stereotype that kids who play too many video games are anti-social or don't like to interact with other kids. This couldn't be further from the truth! Esports actually allows students to make friends from all over the world. It might be a little bit foreign to think of making friends through a video game, but it happens every day. We also see at our Esports summer camp that video games help bring kids together. Their shared interest, passions, and skills make it so that kids can make real connections, often times very quickly.
2. Life Skills. Esports can offer the same type of benefits as traditional sports. Things like being committed, practice and dedication, working on a team and leadership are all great skills that students can learn from Esports. Many of the games involve a lot of strategic thinking and planning.
3. Becoming More Mainstream. We have already talked a little bit about how this industry is booming or maybe you have even seen footage of sold out stadiums watching Esports, but with the rising popularity also comes with some benefits. Many states have made Esports an officially sanctioned sport in high schools. Not only does the mean your child could join a high school team (or even start a team), but they could also get college scholarships for it. There are just more opportunities for players and that trend is going to continue.
4. A Lot of Competition. It's also important to be aware that the path to a professional gamer isn't necessarily easy. Many pros state that they practice up to 12 hours a day! It's important as a parent to understand that you can be supportive about your child's love of Esports, but also limit the amount of screen time they have. Encouraging kids to be well rounded, get some exercise and find some other interests is okay.
Can Esports Actually Be a Career?
There are many stories about Esports gamers making millions of dollars - some even in just one tournament. All these news stories make it seem that Esports could potentially be a pretty lucrative career. When kids see these numbers it’s easy to get excited about pursuing their passion and turning gaming into a career. Now, the question many people might have is how realistic is this goal? Can playing video games actually be a viable career opportunity?
Yes, Esports can be a career, but it’s important to understand that it’s not that easy to make big money in Esports. It’s very similar to trying to get into any other professional sport. It takes a lot of work, dedication and tons of time. The average professional gamer typically works for years before they make it big. There is also a lot of competition; you’re not just competing locally - you’re competing globally! And the truth is, the salary of pro gamers has a huge range. For more details read here about how much Esports Pros make.
Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean that it’s not worth pursuing though! At JKCP we are always encouraging students to follow their passions. Even if a career as a professional Esports player doesn’t happen, there are still plenty of other jobs within the industry that could be worth pursuing.
There are technical jobs like designers, developers, software engineers, video game designers and coders. There are business-related jobs such as marketers producers and sales. There are also team managers, coaches and announcers.
You can always try for the professional title, but pick up some other skills and interests along the way. It’s definitely worth trying to achieve your goals, but there are plenty of other benefits that can be gained on the journey! Try finding another passion within the industry. Maybe take a coding class or a video game design class.
How do you make money in Esports?
One of the biggest questions out there is, “how much do professional Esports players make?” That answer can have a HUGE range. There are all sorts of articles about how Esports players make millions of dollars and while this is true, there are also many players who make much less than that. The main ways that Esports players make money is through sponsors, prizes, salaries, and streaming.
For more details on how much money Esports players make, read here.
The next sections are for anyone who is new to Esports and wants to understand the basics of Esports. If you are a parent who is trying to understand what is going on with your gaming obsessed teen or a gamer trying to figure out your next step, here is a great place to start.
How to Watch Esports:
While Esports are slowly making their way into mainstream television networks on a small scale, the broad majority of Esports are streamed online; they can be found on a number of websites and applications. This is one of the reasons Esports have grown so quickly; most of these sites, such as Twitch and Youtube, are free, and people have been taking advantage. Many of the most popular players have their own following and stream even non-competitive matches, but most Esports leagues and tournaments also have their own official channel.
It is so popular because it is so accessible; fans from all over the world are able to stream, or watch replays, of their favorite player, games, leagues and tournaments whenever and wherever they have an internet connection. While online viewing is the most popular way to watch Esports by far, the ‘LAN Parties’ of the past are not completely dead. A LAN party is an event where people get physically together in the same room and connect using Local Area Network instead of though the internet. While this is becoming much more uncommon there are still plenty of people who prefer to get together to play and watch video games in person.
Watching in Person:
While online streaming garners the most viewers, many of Esports biggest tournaments, especially those with the most money at stake, are conducted in large venues, such as sports arenas and generate a huge following. While arenas are the biggest, there are many professional Esports tournaments that may be played in person, but in much smaller rooms or arenas. Either way, attending in person allows the growing Esports fan-base to get together and root on their favorite teams and players in person and creates a great environment that makes it easy to get into the game. It also offers a another benefit in that the close proximity can ensure that there are no latency or lagging network issues – for those that have gamed online, there is little that is more frustrating than the network lagging at the most critical part of the game.
What Are Some Types of Esports Games?
If you are new to gaming, it’s helpful to understand the different types of games available. While some games are harder to perfectly classify, the most popular Esports games tend to be: First Person Shooter games, Real Time Strategy (RTS) Games, Fighting, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and Sports.
First Person Shooter Games (FPS):
As the title indicates, these are shooting games in which the view the user sees is the same as what the character would see. The most popular FPS games currently are Overwatch, Halo and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
Real Time Strategy (RTS):
These games are characterized by a high level of strategy – they are the most chess-like of video games. They often include teams vying to collect resources that can be used to bolster their military and expansionist goals. The goal is usually to manage and grow your resources in order to create military units that can be used to defeat your opponent. The most popular RTS Esport game currently is Starcraft II.
These games are characterized by a more hand-to-hand combat style, pitting users 1v1 in a type of street-fight smashup. They are reminiscent of the old Arcade fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, that they are based on. Popular Esports games being competitively played now are Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat X and Street Fighter V.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA):
While there is a lot of strategy, similar to RTS, the strategy and management is quite different. Often, RTS games require management and organization of armies and troops; in MOBA, however, you typically control one unit, and the emphasis is more on working well together with your team. The most popular games currently are Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2) and League of Legends (LoL).
We think this one speaks for itself. Popular games currently are Madden, NBA 2K and Rocket League (Something about driving cars around a huge soccer field and pushing a giant soccer ball into the net makes us think we could put it here?)
What Are Esports Leagues and Tournaments?
If you are new to Esports, it is a bit difficult to follow how the professional competitions are structured, especially as there is a lot of variance between different games. The main division is between professional Esports tournaments and leagues. This is important because it gives you an idea of what leagues and tournaments you should be watching for pointers on how it is done in the Pros. If you have professional aspirations it also gives you a stretch goal of where you want to take your game.
With so many different game choices and different platforms, Esports leagues and tournaments are often dedicated to specific games; these leagues and tournaments can be run very differently from one another.
Some leagues work on a system of promotion and relegation to decide which teams will be included in the following year season; this mean that teams inside the league vary from year to year. Rocket League Championship Series, for example, has a tournament at the end of the season to determine which teams will be sent down to Rival Series and which will be included in the higher-level RLCS League Play.
Other leagues, such as Overwatch League, function with set teams that are more comparable to the way the NFL or NHL operate. There are set teams inside of the league that are based in specific cities. As the league is growing, they are adding expansion teams to join the permanent team structure. Overwatch even has a ‘farm system’ or minor league called Overwatch Contenders league to help develop players that are just below the top professional tier.
Examples: Overwatch League, Rocket League Championship Series, Halo Championship Series
There are also a lot of standalone tournaments, often yearly, for Esport professionals to engage in. Sometimes these tournaments lead to entry in a league or ongoing tournament, but often they are just a yearly competition between some of the best teams at certain games from around the world.
Some tournaments, such as the biggest Dota 2 tournament The International, garner some serious attention and a lot of cash prizes. In 2018 The International was held in Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which is where the NHL team the Vancouver Canucks play. The distributed prizes was more than $20 million! Over 15 million watched online and nearly 20,000 fans flocked to the arena to watch in person.
Since there is so much growth and potential, we are seeing a lot of movement and updates with how these leagues and tournaments are operated. For example, the annual League of Legends World Championship drew more than 60 million online viewers in 2017. However, the League of Legends World Championship Series (LCS) has moved to a more permanent structure similar to a traditional sport, or more like the Overwatch League.
While a few of these annual tournaments could be compared to the Super Bowl for these games, there are a huge amount of smaller professional tournaments throughout the year. Some games have tournaments by region in order to gain entry to the main tournaments, while some tourneys are just smaller by nature.
As always, if you want to play Esports for fun or are looking to break into the Professional rankings, there are many tournaments that can be joined online both for fun, against other amateurs, or to gain practice and exposure with higher profile gamers in order to bolster your chances at Esports stardom.
How Esports Teams Operate
With the expansion of leagues and tournaments, teams are also becoming more organized - when you watch a professional league or tournament game, these are certainly not teams that are thrown together like a college intramural volleyball team. How Esports teams operate is varied depending on the game and type of league, but it is important to note that the team element is incredibly important.
This unifying force is one of the best elements of Esports; similar to traditional sports, most games, leagues and tournaments are team-based. Not only does this help foster a good social network, but also encourages some of the best elements of any competition, such as teamwork and dedication, which is why we believe that it’s great news kids are gaming.
With the growth of Esports over the past few years, the number of professional teams has also continued to grow, as has the financial investment in these teams.
Team Organization and Creation
Big Esports organizations tend to own several teams; they often have different teams that play different games. For example, Cloud9, one of the bigger Esports organizations, fields teams for Rocket League, LoL, CS:GO, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Super Smash Bros. Melee, H1Z1, Fortnite, Clash Royale, Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rules of Survival.
Although there are some teams that hold open tryouts, most teams are created through networking and continuing to play a specific game at a high level. Often, this means gaining a following on your favorite streaming platform, such as Twitch and performing well in tournaments, even some amateur tournaments. One thing that will make the process much more effective is to join up with other people who are serious about breaking into the professional scene. These players tend to be more serious, more focused, have stronger gaming networks and also be more refined and skilled in their favorite game. Playing well individually in a serious tournament is a good start; however, if your team finishes near the bottom you probably aren’t going to get noticed. You want to create or join the best team possible; the better your team performs and works together, the greater your chances of starting to make your mark on that game.
How Many People Are on A Team?
The number of players on a team will depend on the league and the game being played. In the Overwatch League, for example, games are played between teams of six people. However, teams may have additional people on the bench, that can be rotated in for different matches.
In the RLCS League Play, games are played between two teams of three players, but teams may retain a reserve player as well.
What Do You Need to Start Playing Esports?
If you or your child are interested in getting into gaming or Esports, the first thing they will need to have is some type of platform to game on. If they don’t have a PC or Console, they will need to decide what platform they prefer. The most widely used system in Esports remains PC, however, there are many opportunities to engage in Esports with a Console. There are vibrant Xbox One and Playstation 4 scenes, for example. There is also an expanding community for Nintendo as Switch continues to grow in popularity, especially with Splatoon 2 and the latest in the Super Smash series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
While the consoles are a little bit more straightforward, choosing a gaming ‘rig’ can be a daunting task. One of the biggest decisions is whether you are going to buy or build your rig.
Build Your Rig
Some gamers choose to buy their computer components individually and then put them all together. There a lot of benefits and it isn’t quite as hard as it sounds! A few of the biggest benefits are that it is usually more cost effective to source the parts individually, you will typically get a better bang for your buck and your PC will be more customization.
Buy a Pre-built PC
If you are looking to buy a pre-built PC, it is important to note that not every PC will work well for all games; a basic PC may not have the ability to properly display and play some of the games you will want to play. There is a huge range of performance and prices to choose from. While it is possible to get a no-frills entry-level gaming rig for probably between $500-$600, you could easily spend well over $2000 on a better setup – here is a great article on affordable, entry-level gaming PCs.
Okay, so you aren’t a beginner anymore. You have found your groove playing online and with friends and know what your favorite games are and which one you play best. You know you aren’t at a professional level, but you find yourself playing more and want to step your game up.
At this point, it is probably time to upgrade your PC and some of your accessories. You are likely also going to have a better idea what type of feel you like for your keyboard, mouse and headsets than when you first started, so that should offer some comfort before you spend additional money on your new hobby. This is a great article that can help identify when it may be a good idea to upgrade some of the components in your gaming PC.
So, you've been absolutely rocking it online, placing in tournaments, and getting a following; things are going great! But, breaking into the pros is still incredibly difficult. You will need a top-of-the-line gaming rig and system, but there are some things beyond a great rig and sweat equity that may be extremely beneficial at this point. If your child is getting advanced and is looking to spring out of the amateur arena and try to make it in the big leagues, there are a few things that can be helpful. One of these, as we mentioned with team formation, is finding a good network filled with people that can help you develop your skills. One way to find a great, supportive community and coaching that can take you to the next level is to attend an Esports summer camp - many of these camps offer a comprehensive and holistic approach to move up to the next level.
How to Transition from Gaming to Esports:
Alright, so maybe you already love gaming and have a pretty sweet gaming rig. You know what games you tend to prefer, but you want to take this hobby and get into Esports; the good news is that there are plenty of available ways to get started. It is important to note, however, that if you are new to the Esports arena, you will likely need to start with small online tournaments – we aren’t talking big prize money at stake, streamed on Twitch, or anything like that. Professional gamers really are professional athletes – they have taken a natural ability and worked and worked until they are at the top of the world in what they do.
However, just because you may not be able to make it as a professional gamer right away doesn’t mean that Esports are off the table. There are plenty of amateur tournaments and leagues that you can join. This, of course, depends on which game you prefer. Dota 2, for example, has plenty of leagues available for pro, amateur, and novice. This helps split out some of the semi-pro or amateur gamers that are looking to get picked up by a professional Esports team or organization.
Usually, depending on the game you want to play, there are plenty of online leagues that you can find by searching around – some of these will offer invitational spots for bigger tournaments or even prize money, but the vast majority are just for fun – the money is mostly reserved for Pros. You can create your team, with friends both near and far, and sign up to play competitive matches and tournaments in your favorite games.
Esports Summer Camp
JKCP offers a unique summer camp for middle and high school students who are serious about Esports and have thought about pursuing it as a career. It's more than just fun and games; it's designed to give students a complete overview of Esports. This immersive experience gives students a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get into Esports. Program highlights include:
- Professional Instruction - hear from pro gamers who have built their careers in Esports
- Career Development - explore collegiate opportunities and learn about different career paths within the industry
- Tournament Training - improve your game and up your level of play