Inside the wild and crazy world of competitive video gaming

How the twitch can make you rich

Congratulations, soccer parent. That’s cool your kid bounced in a penalty shot from the corner last Saturday to seal the 2-1 win for the Angry Wildcats. Everybody was thrilled to see teammates slapping out high-fives with the coach on the sideline. And kudos to you for remembering the orange slices at halftime.

But lemme ask you this: Is your young progeny good enough to expertly dispatch and detonate a menacing, wall-scaling, motorized RIP tire-bomb with such exacting timing that she can vanquish an enemy on the Overwatch battlefield after assuming the persona of Junkrat? You know: the one-legged warrior with the spikes on his back?

Yeah. Thought so.

Looks like you can forget about raking in a percentage of the earnings by exploiting your kid’s mastery of the newest, hottest sport on the planet: competitive video gaming.

Wait. Check that. We don’t call it “video gaming” anymore. We call it “eSports.” Or at least ESPN and its ilk do. The omnipresent TV sports network, along with Turner Broadcasting and WME/IMG (the new naming-rights holder for what’s currently Sports Authority Stadium), are among the big-media players that have fully legitimized the odd but magnetizing spectator-sports category in which fast-fingered combatants, buzzed on energy drinks and dedicated to victory, battle rivals in on-screen games like League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients (Dota), Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty and others.

Turns out those long, irreversibly misspent hours in the basement that you thought were short-circuiting the brain functionality of your 14-year-old were actually the stuff of rigorous training sessions designed to produce world-class expertise in a lucrative profession. eSports is big business. Dueling on PCs and game consoles connected to giant video screens, teams compete for serious rewards thanks to sponsors and TV networks that want in on the action.

One recent example: The December 2016 League of Legend’s World Championship tournament produced 370 million hours of viewing over TV networks and the internet. A crowd-sourced website, eSportsearnings.com, lists 41 teams that have earned more than $1 million in prize money competing in eSports tournaments. Topping the list is the legendary San Francisco-based Evil Geniuses, the self-described “world’s best video game team,” with a reported $14 million to date in prize money. An innocent-looking Pakistani teenager named Sumail Hassan last year collected $1.6 million playing Dota 2 professionally, according to eSportsearnings.

Damn.

If your kid hasn’t yet been recruited by a global eSports power team, don’t worry. He or she can still make gobs of dough by broadcasting their private game sessions over Twitch, the Amazon-owned live-streaming site that – inexplicably – draws large collectives of viewers who honor their inner couch potato by sedentarily watching other people play games. Because … well actually I have no explanation. Ask a younger person.

Among Colorado’s more prominent connections to the burgeoning eSports category is a newly formed professional team nurtured to life by an Arvada-based gaming center, Clutch Arena. The Colorado Clutch (sounds like a soccer team, doesn’t it?) is an assemblage of six players plus a coach whose nicknames include “hamsword” “Lumberjack” and “hotsforshots.”

The team turned in a fourth-place finish at a national eSports tournament last summer, out-dueling opponents in Overwatch, the multi-player shooter game created by developer Blizzard Entertainment. Clutch Arena, a gamer’s paradise bedecked with dozens of computers, game consoles, big screens and an energy bar featuring more than 100 brands, is co-founded by a University of Colorado Leeds School of Business graduate, Justin Moskowitz.

So listen up, moms and dads. All that fresh air running and jumping and kicking or throwing of inflated balls and stuff is fine, if you like that sort of thing. I suppose exercising muscles other than those connecting thumbs and fingers to wrists produces the occasional physical and health benefit.

But there’s also some major sporting action happening right under your nose, down in the basement or across the hallway in the bedroom whose door always seems to be shut. ‘Cuz anymore, it’s all about the twitch. And nowadays for elite players, the twitch can make you rich.

Categories: Consumer, Industry Trends, Magazine Articles