“Esports is not a sport.” “Playing video games is not a job.” These are common sayings that are heard when esports is brought up in a conversation. Over the past 20 years, esports has been exponentially growing and has made a name for itself with the introduction of the games StarCraft, Counter Strike and Quake. What contributes to esports being called a sport? Just like sports, esports have regulated leagues, contracts and intensity levels.
During the initial development of the professional scene in video games, esports started as tournaments. People arranged tournaments and invited selected organizations and teams to participate in their tournaments with the chances of winning cash prizes. Dota 2 is one of the most generous in terms of cash prizes. Their biggest tournament, The International (TI), never fails to surprise. This upcoming TI marks the 10th tournament with a remarkable $36 million prize pool. With esports being more solidified as a form of entertainment, the introduction of leagues has been presented with teams being separated into different conferences. At these tournaments, teams play round-robins, and, in some cases even travel. Overwatch is one of the first leagues to go international, representing three different continents: North America, Europe and Asia. Fans showed their team pride by wearing jerseys and cheering from the crowd. This year was the first that each team hosted games regularly — until the coronavirus put it to a halt.
Prize money is not the only revenue these athletes receive. Teams and organizations regulate salaries among their players and produce trades like those seen in the National Football League (NFL) or National Hockey League (NHL). In esports, it is common to see salaries from $50,000 to $300,000. For rare cases, like the Cristiano Ronaldo’s of esports, contracts have reached $3 million. Despite the common contract being low compared to some other sports, they do have benefits. For some teams, they all live together and are provided the essentials, including food and work equipment.
From an outside perspective, esports events may appear as a group of people enjoying a video game, but they still have training and practices. For training, teams may come together for eight hours, scrimmaging, reviewing past gameplay and crafting new ideas for the future. Where esports outdo other sports is by what happens outside of practice. Players will be on their game for an additional eight hours after practice, playing on their own time with the desire to get better — which takes a toll on athletes’ mental health. Athletes need to have strong mental fortitude, and even the toughest need mental breaks due to the stress it puts on them.