Playing Video Games Professionally?!?

League of Legends “Worlds” Finals (2016)

Once thought as a waste of time, playing video games seem to be a full fledged job. With current big Esports events being shown in public media, it’s evident that playing video games professionally generates a lot of revenue. However, this isn’t some new idea that was created in the last decade, it’s been around for a while. The term “Esports” was created recently to label the professional video game scene, but the idea of “Esports” dates as far back as video games existed.


Spacewar event at Stanford (1972)

With one of the earliest video games, Spacewar, a competition was held at Stanford University on October 19, 1972 to achieve the highest score in the game. The winner received a year subscription to the Rolling Stone. Now it wasn’t these big cash prizes you see in today’s Esports events, but the idea was there for a long time.

Twin Galaxies early staff and players

Before Guinness would put video game records onto their world records, Twin Galaxies were there. They were created in 1980 by Walter Day and were the first source to successfully acknowledge high levels of skill in video games. They kept records for Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and many more.

Also around this time, lots of Esports events were televised in TV shows such as Starcade. Esports was a hit for general media even before big tournaments and world championships, people were interested and that caused a lot of buzz.


The 1990s show the beginning of what Esports looks like today. In the US with the introduction of Battle by the Bay, later rebranded to the EVO Championship Series, Nintendo, creators of the Mario Brothers and other iconic video game representatives creating the Nintendo World Championships and Red Annihilation, a Quake Esports event held in the US.

Nintendo World Championships logo (1990)

Nintendo, the company responsible for so many iconic game franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, Smash Brothers, the list goes on, created their own game competition within their own games. The Nintendo World Championships were held all across the United States and specific venues. They split the contestants in age groups, 11 years and below, 12–17 years, and 18 years and above. Contestants were given time limits to achieve the highest score in multiple games on Nintendo’s Nintendo Entertainment System. Highest scores in Super Mario Bros. , Tetris, and Rad Racer were to be acquired. The World finals were held at Universal Studios Hollywood and the winner in each age category received $10,000 in a US savings bond, a brand new 1990 Geo Metro Convertible, a 40" television, and a gold Mario trophy. The event might’ve been ambitious for Nintendo but with the surge of popular that the public had for something like this, Esports was just waiting to be made.

Left: Battle by the Bay (1996) Right: Red Annihilation (1997)

Battle by the Bay and Red Annihilation were the beginnings of what Esports today looks like. Tons of local tournaments were already held for both Quake and Street Fighter 2 but these events showed that professional gaming was a thing and it attracted many people.

Battle by the Bay might have had far less competitors than today’s EVO tournaments but everything starts from somewhere. Buzz all around the internet spread that this new tournament in California was going to bring the best of the best of Street Fighter the world has ever seen. It was hyped up and was the biggest tournament of its kind back then. It birthed many fighting game legends such as Alex Valle. It sparked interest in the game and notably shot up Street Fighter 2 in popularity immensely. It was the beginning of something amazing and is responsible for creating the FGC (Fighting Game Community) that we see today.

Red Annihilation held at GDC 1996 was one of the pioneers to PC gaming Esports from Microsoft’s DirectX team. It was one of the first of its kind to create a LAN tournament with a large audience and competitors. Quake was being played and Quake being one of the first PC multiplayer shooters, it brought a lot of competition with it. The tourney featured prominent names like Dennis “Thresh” Fong and Tom “Entropy” Kimzey. In the end Dennis “Thresh” Fong won the first Red Annihilation and was awarded a 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS. Now, that’s a prize for a winner! This win solidified Thresh as one of the game’s top players and his name became legend status in the Esports scene.


EVO Super Smash Bros. Melee: Grand Finals (2016)

Today, Esports is thriving. Lots of game and genres are played professionally, from fighting games to strategic team based games. It’s also become much more accessible through services such as to stream live matches of these events. Huge tournament venues and immediate ticket sellouts show that people are invested in this medium and want more.

Asian Games 2018

Some countries have already integrated into their culture’s past times. In lots of Asian countries, they’ve adopted current Esports practices as legitimate jobs. The Asian Games which are the Olympic Games of Asia include Esports games into the main event. Games such as Starcraft and League of Legends are played and players that are at the top level are recruited into their countries’ team just like sports athletes. Lots see Esports players at the levels as the US sees professional football players like true athletes. Asia already has a huge market in Esports and is slowly catching onto the US.

League of Legends “Worlds” Finals (2013)

Riot Games, creators of the game, League of Legends, are one of the people at the forefront of pushing Esports to its absolute limits. In 2013, Riot Games held their 3rd League of Legends World Championship at the Staples Center. Within an hour of tickets going up, the entire Staples Center got sold out.

The company values the pro-scene and its players. They pushed out multiple franchised leagues in multiple different regions. NA and EU LCS, which are predominantly run by Riot Games themselves, support pro players and supply fixed salaries so that within the Europe and North American regions. North American players receive an average of $320,000 as their salary. It might not be like the NBA’s $3 million per year, but its well over minimum wage and can be a living and it continues to grow each year.


Esports Revenue Streams (2018)

The past year, Esports as a whole generated over $900 million dollars, which is it’s highest it’s ever been. If you have a dream of playing games as a kid, well now it’s a reality and a very good looking future. In 2021, Esports revenue is estimated to go well over $1,500 million dollars. It’s a new market that is rapidly growing. Lots of investors have already jumped shipped such as Steph Curry, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox, and Magic Johnson. All famous sports athletes realizing the shift towards a new sport on the video game scene.

Sources: (How esports changed the game: From media laughingstock to media craze)




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William Lee

William Lee

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