By Jill Yarberry

The line of spectators outside the arena stretches as far as the eye can see. Row after row, seats fill with eager-faced spectators, many dressed in team jerseys—music thunders. The air is charged with nervous and excitable energy. The lights lower, the competitors from across the globe put on their armor of headphones and sit next to their weapons of choice—keyboard, mouse, and computer monitor. With game faces on, the battle commences.

It’s no wonder your child is so excited about esports and competitive gaming!

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PswnONyX23I]

What is esports?

We are talking about the big leagues of sporting competition, the kind of excitement and atmosphere that used to be reserved for the IPL, EPL, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, to name a few. Now, those large conglomerates better watch out because there’s a new kid in town, electronic sports, a.k.a. eSports. It isn’t accurate to even say they are the new kids, with one of the earliest recorded tournaments starting around 1972. Comparatively speaking, though, esports is the baby of major sporting events. But, it’s growing. It’s growing so much that there are arenas, franchises, television contracts, tournaments with millions in prize money, full-ride college scholarships, esports management degrees, and even play-by-play announcers. 

“Now esports is a lot more sophisticated, and frankly, it’s grown so much that it is its own industry with a need for all business verticals including marketing, communications, project management, tourney management,” Joey Gawrysiak Ph D., Esports Program Director at Shenandoah University, and esports curriculum researcher and developer, told BYJU’S FutureSchool. “While it was conceived out of a joy for digital entertainment, socializing with friends, and escapism, it has turned into a multibillion-dollar business.”

The Definition of Esports: “a general term used to describe video game competitions. Much like athletic sporting events, esports games are often played before live audiences and may be broadcast over the Internet as well.” –Tech Terms

The History of esports Gaming

If your child came to you and said, “I want to join an esports team,” or “I can’t believe it! My school is starting an esports program,” you may have found yourself wondering, “What is that? Is this legit?” It sure is, and while it might be a relatively new concept to many, it has been around for quite a while.

Stanford University—Pioneering More than Artificial Intelligence

In October of 1972, almost 50 years ago, one of the first esports events on record took place. A group of 24 computer programmers in charge of some serious business (we’re talking the U.S. Department of Defense) at the U.S. Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab decided once and for all to settle the official “pecking order” of their favorite after-hours pastime. Utilizing Stanford’s computers to run the game, “The Intergalactic Spacewar! Olympics” commenced.  

“Rudimentary Spacewar consists of two humans, two sets of control buttons or joysticks, one TV-like display, and one computer. Two spaceships are displayed in motion on the screen, controllable for thrust, yaw, pitch, and the firing of torpedoes. Whenever a spaceship and torpedo meet, they disappear in an attractive explosion,” describes Rolling Stone writer, Stewart Brand in an article for the magazine.

The winners of the “solo” and the “Free-For-All” didn’t win millions, but they did get a free subscription to Rolling Stone magazine (and, of course, bragging rights)! 

Then Came the Arcade Games and Pong

Accredited by more than a few video game aficionados, the 1980s ushered in a wave of new gaming systems, games, and the drive for world video game domination. “As the (coin-operated) arcades started to boom, during the late 1970’s-80’s people started to compete. It became a normal thing to want to beat people’s high scores. You wanted your initials at the top,” Christopher Scroggins, Gamer and Esports Instructor at Shenandoah University, told BYJU’S FutureSchool.

Of course, it would be wrong on many levels to discuss video games without mentioning the home version of Pong. It brought digital entertainment into the homes of thousands. In addition, individual home consoles like the Atari VCS became household mainstay across the world. In 1985, Nintendo released its game console, and as they say, the rest is history. “Video games found a firm foothold [in] mainstream American life,” and life around the globe.

“Then you start to see these large game publishers and developers begin to host nationwide tournaments and compete for prizes,” Scroggins adds, like Atari’s international football competition, and their Space Invader tournament, a large-scale tournament in New York City which brought in thousands of competitors.

In 2011, another significant advancement propelled the sport of competitive gaming. Twitch.tv allowed video game players to broadcast themselves playing live. It was hugely popular. The viewership soared, and out of it, competitions began to grow in size and breadth and move from in-person tournaments to huge online streaming events and in-person arena extravaganzas.

Notable esports Tournaments and Events

1980: First nationwide Space Invaders competition with thousands of participants

1981: Large-scale Donkey Kong tournament

1990’s: Fighter tournaments took off with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat

1990’s: Tournaments for Starcraft, Overwatch, and Halo

1998: Record 50 million people watched a Starcraft 2 tournament online

2000’s: World Cyber Games, Electronic Sports World Cup, Major League Gaming 

2006: First televised event on USA Network – Halo 2

2011: First World Championship is held in 2013, and the Los Angeles Staples Center event sells out within minutes 

2014: Amazon buys Twitch. And, League of Legends becomes the most popular Esports games 

2015-Present: Several esports arenas open across the country including Santa Ana and Las Vegas

*Sourced from precenden.com and esports.net 

Esports Today

Currently there are world championships, some of which are in-person events or live-streamed. Esports is a huge deal in many parts of the world, and for competitors and spectators alike, this is serious business. Esports has everything that other traditional sports have, most of all a financial backing, a fan base, and undoubtedly seriously-phenomenal professional players that come from every corner of the globe and who are making six-figure salaries. And, in the U.S. alone, 97% of teen boys and 83% of girls play video games while the average player is between 18 and 34 years old. “Video game participation is growing at a rate we haven’t seen with any other activity in the world before except maybe breathing and eating. … It’s across other countries and continues to grow,” says  Dr. Gawrysiak. 

The Future of esports

Esports and Education

Esports can be found in many high schools and colleges; people like Dr. Gawrysiak and Scroggins are working hard to help educational institutions see the value that gaming can have. “It’s something that brings children joy, that engages them, that they are passionate about, that provides them the skills and education that they need (social-emotional, math, engineering, etc…),” says Gawrysiak.

More than likely, as evidence continues to unveil the benefits of gaming in the educational setting, there will be forward momentum in K-12 education. More curricula will include gaming as a tool for instruction in other subjects and a subject itself where students are learning to code the games and create artificial intelligence. It’s also likely that more universities, like Shenandoah University, will continue to add intercollegiate esports programs and degrees in esports fields. 

Esports Industry Growth

While many areas of the economy continue to struggle, the esports industry has grown and benefited from social distancing. Competitors can still compete, and casual gamers continue to play and benefit from the opportunity to participate in live events. “Year after year, major esports tournaments are breaking viewership and prize pool records,” according to GeekInsider. Esports has 10 times the number of viewers than that of the 2019 Super Bowl. And now, big mainstream corporations like Honda are providing sponsorship, thereby upping the industry’s value. The esports industry’s 2019 revenue of $1.9 billion is expected to balloon to around $2.9 billion by 2025, reports GeekInsider and thus, generating jobs and a need for esports-based career and technical training. 

The key takeaway is that esports has a long history and an even brighter future. If your child is interested, it’s a growing industry with a ton of possibilities far beyond just playing video games. It’s a good idea to find out more, learn the benefits, and understand all the facts. By understanding esports and gaming, you can foster your child’s passion and utilize it to help them grow and potentially find a career in a field they love.

Video Game Creation

If your child already loves video games, why not foster a love of creation along with a love of play? Today, at BYJU’S FutureSchool, children across the globe are creating code and artificial intelligence (A.I.) with 1:1 or small group instruction by highly trained instructors. Sign them up for a FREE trial class today.

About the Contributors

This parent’s guide was created with the research, experiences, and insight of esports experts Dr. Joey Gawrysiak Esports Program Director/Esports Curriculum Director, and Christopher Scroggins Esports Instructor/Esports Curriculum Developer at Shenandoah University.

About the Author

A writer, teacher, and most importantly, a mom, Jill loves to research and write about important topics and provide opportunities for growth for herself and her readers. A journalist at heart, she greatly enjoys interviewing and learning from others and sharing it with an audience. She is an avid nature-lover and spends as much time outdoors as possible trail-riding, paddle-boarding, hiking, and taking photos along the way. 

About the Author

More than just Coding and Math! Our proprietary, activity-based curriculum with live, real-time instruction facilitates: Problem Solving. Creative Thinking. Grit. Confidence. Communication