Whether you play video games or haven’t picked up a controller or decades, there is a strong chance you have heard about esports. A business that is estimated to be worth almost $1.5 billion by 2020, with some players that are already competing for prize pools of up to $24 million, esports are also hard to understand, filled with jargon, and not exactly like the sports you typically associate with competition on a global scale. If you’re looking to watch it, understand it, or just get a better idea of what on earth it all means: this is your guide to esports.
What does ‘esports’ actually mean?
Generally, the easiest definition is competitive gaming at a professional level. It only includes video games, but pretty much any game with a winner and a loser can be played as an esport, although the bigger the player base and the more support it has, the better the competition.
How that exactly works differs from game to game. The majority of popular esports are team-based games played in leagues or tournaments throughout the year, culminating in one final event. Some of those leagues or tournaments are region-specific, meaning that, for most of the year, European teams will only play other European teams, North American teams will only play other North American teams, and so on.
What sort of games can be an esport?
The games themselves can come in a wide variety of formats, although there’s two main variants nowadays: first-person shooters, ‘MOBAs’. First-person shooter is self-explanatory, while MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
That’s the first bit of jargon you’ll need to know for esports. Generally, MOBAs are all about two teams playing as heroes with unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. The goal is to kill the opponents to gain an advantage and destroy their base on the opposite site of the map. By killing oppponents, they gain gold and experience, which can be used to improve the character.
League of Legends and Dota 2 are the two biggest MOBAs, and have a recognisable top-down perspective. First-person shooters, on the other hand, typically swap between showing a player’s perspective and a flying camera when spectating.
In a first-person shooter (often referred to as an FPS), the goal can differ. In some games, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the goal is simply to kill the opposing team. In others, like Overwatch, it can be a ‘king of the hill’ mode, where teams fight over a location, the first team to control it for a set amount of time wins, or a ‘payload’ mode, where teams take turns attacking and defending, fighting to push the payload to a final objective.
Other esports can be card games, sport games (the FIFA series is growing in popularity as an esport, with major football clubs having their own FIFA players), strategy games, and fighting games. Sports games are generally the most simple, given they’re based on real-world sports, while fighting games are also accessible, given the more obvious back and forth of punches and kicks.
Strategy games, like StarCraft 2, are all about players building armies and trying to defeat each other with optimal unit movement, army composition, and tactical choices. Battles are won and lost of tactical choices and quick movements. Card games, like Hearthstone, challenge players to best one another with monsters and spells, the first person to lose all of their health loses.
Despite being popular, FPS and MOBA esports are some of the most difficult to watch, as first-person perspectives make for difficult spectating and a vast array of characters in MOBA games mean you have got a lot to learn.