Who would have ever thought that gaming would be considered a major player in the sports industry? Fortnite was one of the first streaming games to enter the market in 2017. Streaming games allows gamers the opportunity to build social and economical capital from their bedrooms by just twiddling their fingers while other enthusiasts watch. Gaming has evolved from the days of two people in a room playing against each other. It is now a phenomenon that has garnered legions of fans from across the world, and has created profitable opportunities. The Global video game industry was valued at $159.3 billion in 2020, with 2.7 billion gamers worldwide and 75% of US households have at least one gamer. By 2024 eSports is estimated to surpass $2.5 billion dollars.
“I think gaming is gonna get even bigger. It’s not gonna slow down. Companies are seeing [that] competitive gaming is blowing up, so the sponsorships are going to keep coming as the industry expands,” said Elijah Smith, a veteran Fortnite player. Smith has been playing games since he got his first system, the PS2. For him growing up in Newark, NJ gaming was a stress relief from the rough streets. He said that he finds he has less time to play competitively since becoming a full time college student.
No longer are the days of having to be athletic to participate in sports. All you need is good hand-eye coordination, and a gaming system to join the ranks of the best players within the world of e-sports. The types of online games available are so diverse in that there’s something for all interests. For instance, Rocket League is a game where the players play soccer with souped-up cars, while Fortnite is a shooter game, with numerous game modes for all levels of players and building components. For those interested in a more adventurous gaming experience where players can level up and fight mythical monsters, a game like Elden Ring has a unique layer versus player mode that allows players to invade various territories.
Middle school-and high school-aged kids can get the chance to play games competitively for their schools. Garden State Esports is a way for kids to get their feet wet in the industry. They help young people to use video games as a way to grow academically and socially. GS Esports has 166 clubs in New Jersey, and they service 32% of NJ school districts with over 5,302 students across the state. They host events that provide students with a place to freely play video games, while also including many resources to help them thrive. The tournaments they hold around New Jersey give gamers the opportunity to play against other students within their age group. In April, GS Esports held the Rocket League finals for middle school through college-level students at Rider University. There were teams of students competing against one another as they played the popular Rocket League game on side-by-side PCs.
The Esports club at Rider University was a big part of making the GS Esports event come to life.
“We play several games competitively, like Overwatch, League of Legends, and Smash Brothers. We like to focus on the competitive side of gaming, but we welcome all casual players,” said Ryan Petrelli, Vice President of Rider’s Esports club.
Streaming offers a way for gamers to monetize their hobby, while showing others with the same interest their gameplay. Popular interactive streaming platforms, such as Twitch, allows Esports competitions and enables viewers to donate money and communicate with gamers around the world.
While gaming does not include the physical exertion required in traditional sports, the motor skills and strategic thinking needed to play competitively offers its own unique talents, making it a sport in its own right.