Move over Drew Brees, Michael Jordan and Tony Hawk – if the trend continues, there may be a new breed of super-successful sports heroes hitting the scene in the 21st century. Take 24-year-old Peter "Peterpandam" Dager from Fort Wayne, Ind., who with his other four teammates won $6,634,660.68 earlier this year in a single video-game competition. Wait. What? You heard me right. $6 million in one tournament. If you thought the only people claiming to make big bucks while sitting behind a computer was your friend’s friend playing online poker, think again.
While monetizing computer-based competition is nothing new, it’s traditionally been centered on various grey area industries such as gambling, and now high-dollar fantasy sports leagues. However, competitive computer gaming involving first-person-shooters and strategy games are resolving into big business that don’t seem to have as precarious a legal status.
And this market is growing more each day. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations almost half of all high school students don’t participate in traditional sports. What are many of these kids doing? Going home and playing video games. Some argue these new generations of kids are missing out on important confidence building and life lessons that traditional sporting activities have taught, but others say there’s a new game in town that offers some similar benefits.
E-sports, as it’s now being called, is jockeying to be considered as legitimate as traditional sports and is incorporating many of the same characteristics: superstar players, high-dollar matches, sponsorship deals and more.
Kenneth George, owner of the New Orleans’ oldest operating gaming cafe Dibbz, wants to be one of the pioneers in the New Orleans area through the creation of their own gaming league and organized team-based competitions. Dibbz boasts all the resources necessary and offers access to 30 high-end PCs optimized for the latest games in a cool, social environment. The cafe is also open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., proving that not everything in Metairie is dead after midnight. It even has special rigs for professionally broadcasting gaming sessions as well as wall projection for console gaming.
George wants to get area students to form teams representing their schools and compete in regular tournaments. Perhaps the next time you hear about a competition between Rummel and Grace King, instead of football, track or wrestling, the event may be Defense of the Ancients, Hearthstone or League of Legends? How long before St. Aug has a formal World of Warcraft team? Maybe sooner than you think? Just last October, the Major League Gaming finals were held in New Orleans at the Morial Convention Center with more than $500,000 in prizes.
In addition to fostering a more communal approach towards what has traditionally been viewed as somewhat anti-social, people like Kenneth George and Dibbz manager Benjamin Johnson are excited about the future potential of competitive gaming to be not simply a distracting pastime, but for some, a full-time vocation. “What I want to see is people get their start here, and in 5-6 years win a major tournament,” Johnson said.
There are young adults now making upwards of $300,000 a year playing videogames.
There are young adults now making upwards of $300,000 a year playing videogames! While Johnson and George don’t know of anyone locally who is a bona-fide, full-time gamer, they recognize there is potential and want to be part of the wave that proves E-sports can be as productive a field as traditional sports. In fact, after a recent scandal this past year, MLG competitions even implemented no-doping rules.
Interestingly enough, there’s also as big a market watching computer gaming as there is participating! Multi-billion-dollar Internet ventures such as Twitch cater almost exclusively to running video streams of gaming sessions. People like 28 year old, ex-Time-Warner Cable Customer Service Representative Jaryd Lazar, otherwise known as “Summit” in the gaming world, boasts more than a million subscribers to his Twitch stream and has made upwards of $70,000+ in income per month, all from fans watching him play videogames!
So if it’s you or one of your friends who seems to get odd looks from others suggesting you’re wasting your life away playing video games, just tell them, “Hey dude, this is E-sports. It’s a real thing now!”