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Last year a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania earned $3 million by winning the solo competition at the Fortnite World Cup. Another 16-year-old from California was given $1.2 million for finishing third, while a 15-year-old from Essex in England scooped $1.1 million by seizing the runner-up prize in the duos event.
Teenagers can now earn life-changing sums by simply playing video games at elite levels. More than 80 gamers have now earned more than $1 million alone through their exploits with a mouse, keyboard or controller, and the majority are teens and young adults. Is it time for more parents to start embracing the esports revolution?
A Cultural Phenomenon
Teenagers now have the perfect riposte when parents demand that they put down the controller and do their homework. You can become an overnight millionaire by excelling at video gamers, putting parents in an awkward position.
However, parents should not fear competitive gaming. Detrimental myths about video games abound, but it is time to debunk them and show parents that their children can benefit – not just financially – by getting involved in esports.
The most popular esports are MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2. They are featured prominently on leading industry sites like Unikrn.com, they typically dominate the Twitch rankings, and tournaments like the LoL Worlds and The International generate a tremendous buzz. The International 2019 carried prize money of $34.3 million, making it the richest esports tournament of all time.
These games really encourage STEM learning. The pros typically come from science, technology, engineering and mathematics backgrounds, and esports encourages youngsters to develop these skills. It then celebrates an aptitude for these areas by turning gamers into millionaire superstars with legions of adoring fans.
Other popular esports include CS:GO and Overwatch, which require teamwork, communication, problem solving and other vital skills. These help teenagers thrive in the world of business, even if they do not make it as star gamers.
Schools Back Esports
It is important to remember that video games are not making children isolated or antisocial any more. Most games are online, multiplayers pursuits. They allow friends to join forces and take on opposing teams in thrilling battles, or make new friends across the world and bond over a shared fondness for a particular game.
Vast online communities give people a sense of belonging, while a number of LAN events frequently bring people out of their bedrooms and into the real world.
Schools are also backing the esports revolution. One in five K-12 schools already have an esports program, and 71% are considering it, according to a survey from eCampus News and Extreme Networks in August 2019.
They know that taking part in extracurricular activities keeps students out of trouble, offers a sense of belonging, boosts their academic performance and attendance rate, and helps them contribute positively to the wider school ecosystem.
Traditionally that would come through sports like football, basketball and athletics, but schools can no longer afford to ignore the esports revolution.
How Big Is Competitive Gaming?
You have probably heard talk of the growing popularity of competitive gaming, but just how big is it? The primary research group in this sector is Newzoo, and it estimates that there were 454 million esports viewers in 2019. That is predicted to increase to 645 million by 2022.
The Asia Pacific region accounts for more than half of that figure. Just 12% of viewers are in North America, but the number continues to grow. Newzoo values the esports industry at $1.1 billion, but that does not include the vast sums earned by the publishers of titles like League of Legends and Fortnite, which both made more than $1 billion in 2019.
This is no longer a geeky, niche hobby. It is big business, and brands like Intel, Mastercard, Coca-Cola and Red Bull are piling in. The scene is becoming increasingly flush with cash, and that translates to more jobs, more tournaments, higher levels of professionalism and organization, a slicker viewing experience and more pro gamers.
The Future is Bright
Yet the esports scene is still in its infancy. Its potential for future growth is vast. Many experts believe it will eventually eclipse traditional sports in terms of popularity, economic heft and viewership figures. That might sound fanciful, but recent news items would suggest otherwise.
All manner of traditional sports franchises have been investing heavily in the pro gaming scene. The Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers are among the NBA teams with major esports projects. Leading soccer teams like PSG and Man City are getting involved. NFL team owners regularly invest in esports, along with celebrities, tech entrepreneurs, singers, rappers and actors.
They all recognize the potential of esports. It is a lot more dynamic than traditional sports, as it takes advantage of technological developments to constantly offer an enhanced viewing experience. New games regularly shake up the scene and drive it forwards, whereas traditional sports look static by comparison.
Esports appeal to young people that have grown up with technology, and they will continue to grow at the expense of sports like baseball, golf and so on. Traditional sports teams have realized that it is futile to try to beat them, so they are joining the revolution instead. It is time for parents to get on board too.