Guide to Esports

May 26, 2021
This isn’t Back to the Future and you’re not dreaming…video games are now a part of the sporting world! Here’s #thegist of what you should know.
Sports NewsEsports
Guide to Esports


Unlike more traditional sports (soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc.) that have been around for decades, esports is a newer ‘sport’ to hit mainstream markets. The simplest way to think about them is as “electronic sports.” Essentially, esports is competitive/professional video gaming. Esports is kind of an umbrella term similar to saying “sports” as there isn’t one specific video game that all competitors play. So take football, basketball and soccer and sub them in for League of Legends,Overwatch and Dota 2. Make sense?

How are esports organized?

Esports are normally played in tournaments. In their infancy, esports tournaments were predominantly played online. However, in the early 2010s, streaming and esports took off and these gaming tournaments started taking place IRL.

There are currently thousands of tournaments around the world being hosted online and offline where competitors vie for millions of dollars in prize money. That’s right. These high-level gamers are competing professionally for a chance to win millions of dollars for playing their favorite video game. Literally living the dream. Apparently our parents may have been wrong when they said: “Go outside and play, you’ll never get anywhere sitting in front of a screen.”

Back up, what do you mean tournaments?

We totally get it — it’s hard to picture. The same way you play a soccer tournament, gamers play against each other in teams of players or individually. It’s generally round-robin style with the winner of each game moving on to some sort of playoff. Tournaments can be played and watched online, but when they’re hosted IRL, they’re normally played in large stadiums or arenas where fans can watch too. Some tournaments are even held in the same arenas as major league sports like the Barclay’s Centre in New York and the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia. Pretty cool, right?

In fact, both of these venues have hosted the Overwatch League Grand Finals in previous years. In 2018 the winners received a cool $1M and one year later, the grand prize was upped to $1.1M. Millionaires in the making.

How big is esports? Why is it all the rage these days?

Esports is a big, big industry and it’s been rapidly growing for years. By the year 2020, sources estimate the global esports industry will be worth MORE THAN $1.65 BILLION. Damn, that’s a lot of zeroes.

One of the biggest reasons for industry growth is the investments being made by traditional sport owners like Robert Kraft. Kraft owns the New England Patriots, and also purchased pro esports team Boston Uprising, a part of the Overwatch League. The COO of the New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon, also owns the New York Excelsior from the Overwatch League. Three-time NBA Champion Rick Fox, yes THE Rick Fox, bought a League of Legends team called the Gravity Gaming and renamed it Echo Fox. His purchase was largely based on the bond Rick and his son had built while playing League of Legends. What better way to bond over a mutual love of a video game than buying a professional team!? Don’t you wish your dad was like Rick Fox?

The games

Not all video games are played professionally (unfortunately for our talents, you won’t find a Sims league in esports). However, there are a lot of different “leagues” out there. And that’s really the beauty of esports — there is something for everyone. Do you enjoy fast-paced shooting games? You should check out CS:GO. Do you fancy a fantasy-based game where strategy is at the forefront? Dota 2 might be your next obsession. Are you a huge soccer fan? Rocket League is basically monster trucks playing soccer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and literally anyone and everyone can play.

And that’s why we love esports so much — unlike a lot of traditional sports where physical fitness is key (so a lot of athletes retire around the age of 40), esports players don’t have to worry about ageing out of the game. You can be a professional esports player at any age as you can play the game!

The international superstars

Let’s take a look at some of the top gamers in the world:

Dota 2: Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Germany) has been playing Dota 2 for almost a decade is currently the highest net earner with more than $4M USD in total income. He surpasses every other esports player in the entire industry. Damn!

League of Legends: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (Korea) is the highest-paid League of Legends player with career net earnings of more than $1.1M USD and adds even more to that playing with his SK Telecom T1 team.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Andreas"Xyp9x" Højsleth (Denmark) is CS:GO’s highest-earning player with an impressive career total of almost $1.5M USD.

Where our girls at?

The sad reality in esports is that, much like many other professional sports leagues, women are still being left out of professional teams. Esports has predominantly been a “man’s world” with issues of sexism and misogyny running rampant. Ugh. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY women competing.

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon (Overwatch), Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey (CS:GO), Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (Starcraft II), and Kristen “KittyPlays” Michaela (Fortnite) are some of the top female players. Unfortunately, their earnings pale in comparison to the multi-millions made by their male counterparts.

Although women make up half the population of amateur gamers, we’re still incredibly under-represented in pro-gaming esports. Slowly more women are being signed to top tier organizations, but it’s been a very slow process.

Did you know...

  • “The International”, Dota 2’s biggest tournament of the year, has the record for the world’s largest esports prize pool of more than $30M USD! And that’s just at the time of writing, it has continued to go up year-after-year and shows no signs of slowing down.
  • Professional esports players train the same way traditional athletes do. They focus on their health, physical fitness (reaction times are key) and mental stamina.
  • Did you know that esports gaming chairs (yes, if you’re going to be playing a long time you want to make sure you’re well equipped) can cost as much as $3k?! Just wild. Check out the most expensive chairs in the world here.

That’s #thegist of it!

Written by Guest Writer: Gillian Scott

Don't get The GIST’s free twice-weekly newsletter yet? Let's make it inbox official.