A click of a button

Schools around the country are mobilizing Esports teams as the interest surrounding it grows.

A click of a button

Illustration by Roman Sergi

A revolution has taken place in recent years in the world of sports. Certain athletes have begun making six-figure salaries and teams can play in tournaments with over a million dollars in prize money. These athletes aren’t running around on fields, kicking or hitting a ball, or running a track. Instead, they are sitting in chairs with their hands on a keyboard and mouse, or controller, their eyes locked on a monitor playing a game.

 

Esports, or competitive video gaming, was taken as a joke by members of the media or older generation but as the sport has grown and gained support from athletes like Gordan Hayward or Juju Smith-Schuster.

 

SMCHS and other schools around the country have formed clubs or teams to compete against one another. At the collegiate level, there are now teams with scholarship opportunities for high school athletes.

 

Many of the players start young, playing various games that lead them into others.

 

“I started a long time ago playing Pokémon on my DS and Super Smash Bros on the Wii,” said senior Cole Engleman.  “I remember going to my friends’ houses and playing Mario games, and over time I got introduced to more and more styles and varieties of games.”

 

While not a traditional sport by physical nature, the training, and preparation that goes into perfecting a craft are the same. Also, many players break from the classic “gamer” trope, going to the gym frequently like former pro Counter Strike Global Offensive player Jarosław Jarząbkowski. Mental stress fills in the for the lack of physical strain that it takes to become a top-tier player.

 

“If you look at Esports in a physical sense, no it is not a sport,” Engleman said.  “For Overwatch last year, our team would have to watch the footage, play in scrimmages, and spend lots of hours practicing. You could compare Esports to golf in that they are not the most physically demanding, but practice along with repetition and knowing the game will improve your talent.”

 

Like at the professional level, high-school-level tournaments are tense and filled with young talent battling for supremacy in-game.

 

“[The competitions are] stressful, but very fun and rewarding when you win,” said senior Brian Gilmore.

 

Outside of tournaments, there are many other ways for players to gain a following and put their name out there. Streaming services like Twitch or Mixer showcase some of the very best gaming talents there is and also provides a huge source of revenue for top players.

 

“There is a lot of money and potential in the Esports community,” Engleman said.  “Facebook has even tried to promote streaming software, and gaming also provides a medium for advertising. Much of the revenue in the industry comes from promoting other products, or playing advertisements just like on a TV program.”

 

Outside of the tournaments or other money opportunities Esports, like all sports, provides an opportunity for strangers to come together and work hard for a common goal.

 

“It’s hard to play esports without the support of friends and teammates,” Gilmore said. “When you find a game you enjoy, the only way to get better is to bond with your teammates because they give you moral support.”