Esports is a fascinating phenomenon in a billion dollar industry. Officially, “Esports” is short for electronic sports and refers to competitive video gaming with tournament and league structures just like traditional sports. In Esports, gamers square off either in teams (multiplayer) or individually. Thanks to streaming services like Twitch and YouTube, professional gamers have become their own breed of celebrities building legitimate fan bases that come out to support them. The most popular Esports games include League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Dota 2, Fortnite, Madden NFL and Overwatch. Street Fighter, Super Smash Brothers and Mortal Kombat games are also popular Esports.

Esports as we know it today is relatively new, however, competitive gaming has been around since the days of Pong. Esports traces its origins back to 1972, when home consoles first became common. In 1980, the first nationwide Space Invaders competition was held with 10,000 participants. A year later, gamers competed in the surprisingly cutthroat, inaugural Donkey Kong tournament. In the early 1990’s, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat competitions and tournaments grew in popularity followed by GoldenEye and other first-person shooters later that decade, which paved the way for the Starcraft, Warcraft, Overwatch, Call of Duty and Halo series. Fast forward to 1998, the legendary Starcraft 2 tournament on PC boasted more than 50 million online viewers, 17 million of those participating via Twitch.

As the 2000’s rolled around, Esports gained serious momentum. Tournament hosts such as the World Cyber Games and the Electronic Sports World Cup debuted, followed by the launch of Major League Gaming (MLG) in 2002. Today, MLG is considered one of the world’s most prominent hosts in Esports.

The first televised Esports event happened in 2006, Halo 2 on the USA Network. Broadcasting Esports didn’t prove fruitful until the inception of Twitch in 2011, when players could actively engage with their audiences. In 2014, Amazon bought Twitch and League of Legends became one of the most popular Esports games ever which remains true today). In 2011, League of Legends had its first World Championship and in 2013, the event sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles within minutes of tickets going on sale.

There are varying types of Esports tournaments today, which include:

  • First-person shooter (FPS) events like Call of Duty, Apex Legends and Halo
  • Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) events like League of Legends and Dota 2
  • Fighter game events like Mortal Kombat and Super Smash Bros
  • Sports game events like Madden and NBA2K
  • Other events like card games and real-time strategies


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