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Navigating the World of Esports

What is Esports?

Esports, short for electronic sports, refers to competitive video gaming where professional players and teams compete against each other in various multiplayer video games. Like traditional sports, esports involves skilled individuals and groups competing in organized leagues often with varied prize pools. The games played in esports cover a wide range of genres, including first-person shooters, real-time strategy, multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), and sports games. 

The growth of professional esports and the subsequent viewership have seen unprecedented growth over the past decade. In the US alone, there were an estimated 45 million unique viewers across the most popular games in 2023. Going forward, much of the same is expected. According to Statista.com, worldwide esports projected revenue is $4.3 billion in 2024 with a 7.1% increase in market volume between now and 2028.

What makes esports unique to traditional professional sports is the accessibility to watch and consume the product. Most, if not all, popular esports events can be watched for free online. Through platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and other live streaming services, a viewer can tune in to see the best players in the world instantly. Many professional players will also stream themselves playing on their own time, giving viewers even more esports content to consume.   

Getting a ticket and attending these events live is also an option, like traditional sports. Games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Valorant will see tens of thousands attend their biggest events throughout the year.


A large crowd watches as two teams compete in League of Legends Worlds. Photo via Riot Games

Getting into Esports

Like traditional sports, becoming a professional esports player is not an easy task. Even with high levels of skill, dedication, and support, only the 1% will become true professionals. However, this does not mean getting into esports is out of reach. While everyone watches the professionals, what keeps these games alive are the people who play games in their free time. Many of these games have their own competitive or “rank” system within them. 

Consider Valorant, a first-person shooter and team-based game. For casual players, there are several game modes, such as "unranked," where there's nothing at stake – just play for enjoyment and improvement. Those seeking an additional challenge can explore the ranked mode, where they're matched with players of similar skill levels, engaging in competition to ascend the ranks. Each win propels them towards the next rank level while losing sets them back. This is accessible by simply owning and playing the game, which provides an excellent entry point into esports.

Numerous games are designed to foster online communities. These communities, organized by passionate fans, serve as supplementary platforms outside the game itself. Frequently created on platforms like Discord, they serve as inclusive hubs containing a wealth of information, organizing tournaments, and bringing together individuals worldwide who share a common love for the game. Picture it like your local co-ed softball league – an unofficial league yet a gathering where people unite for enjoyment, competition, and a shared enthusiasm for the game.


Staying Safe Online

If you have ever ventured online, you've likely witnessed individuals feeling empowered to express anything they please from behind a screen. This phenomenon isn't exclusive to general internet use; it extends to gaming, potentially dissuading individuals from diving into esports and why parents are hesitant to let their children online. Fortunately, tools exist to mitigate toxicity. Gaming platforms offer features enabling players to conceal their accounts and mute chats, both from teammates and opponents. The reporting systems within these games have also improved, effectively penalizing those who engage in toxic behavior.

Alternatively, there are external Discord communities where you can connect with supportive, like-minded individuals for gaming. Unlike in-game reporting systems, often handled by computers, well-managed Discord communities are created and overseen by players. Consequently, reports within these communities are directly reviewed by real people.


STEM It Up Sports EsportsLab

This is why STEM It Up Sports created the High Tech Gaming League within our EsportsLab. We wanted a place where like-minded and closely-aged kids could come together and play games. 2024 will see at least one monthly tournament in a handful of games, parties open to all members, and specialized workshops like Video Game Design and Streaming. It also serves as a crash course in esports for parents. They can see firsthand the benefits of esports and the enjoyment their kids get out of it without the risk of online toxicity. Esports is not just about video games, kids practice teamwork and leadership, while also building confidence within themselves.


The EsportsLab has over 20 PCs and multiple gaming consoles. Members can enjoy access to the most popular games.

  We will be announcing our own member-only Discord community for kids and parents soon. This will be a great resource for everyone to stay connected outside of the EsportsLab and give students the experience of staying safe online. Joining will be completely optional and we will give more information in the future.       

Esports has become a cultural phenomenon, shaping its own community and lifestyle around gaming. The popularity of esports continues to rise, making it a dynamic and evolving sector within the broader entertainment landscape. Navigating it as a parent can be confusing and overwhelming but we hope that our EsportsLab can help parents become more aware of many amazing things happening in esports.


Sources:


“Esports - Worldwide | Statista Market Forecast.” Statista, https://www.statista.com/outlook/amo/esports/worldwide#:~:text=In%20terms%20of%20user%20base,expected%20to%20be%20US%246.01. Accessed 17 Jan. 2024.


Howarth, Josh. “25 Mind Blowing Esports Stats (2024).” Exploding Topics, Exploding Topics, 25 Aug. 2021, https://explodingtopics.com/blog/esports-statistics.



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