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What are eSports, and where are people watching them?

What are eSports, and where are people watching them?
Posted at 4:16 PM, Aug 26, 2018

On Sunday afternoon, a gunman stormed a bar/arcade in Jacksonville, Florida, killing people attending a Madden NFL video game tournament.

Tournaments such as the one in Jacksonville are part of a growing global trend — eSports, or competitive video gaming.

What are eSports?

eSports is the broad term that encompasses any sort of competitive video gaming. The tournaments and leagues are often hosted by video game studios — EA Sports, the maker of Madden NFL 19, was hosting the tournament in Jacksonville on Sunday. 

Early eSports tournaments focused on niche games and attracted mainly hard-core gamers as spectators, but that didn't stop spectators from turning out in droves. eSports has sold out arenas in China, Japan and even in the US as spectators watched the best of the best play games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Overwatch.

But in the past few years, eSports has been going mainstream.

In 2018, the NBA launched the NBA 2K League — a season-long competition featuring gamers playing an NBA video game for teams affiliated with actual NBA franchises. In addition, more than 60 colleges and universities throughout the country have eSports teams, some of which offers scholarships to gamers.

Where are people watching eSports?

The popularity of eSports has exploded in recent years, thanks to the streaming service Twitch. The website allows gamers to live-stream their gaming sessions, and some of the top-ranked gamers play in front of millions of viewers who live stream from their homes.

Swedish gamer PewDiePie has more than 72 million subscribers combined between his Twitch and YouTube channels —despite making controversial comments in past months.

Another gamer, Ninja, regularly gains 50,000 viewers per stream. Reports indicate he makes $500,000 annually by playing games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

Sunday's mass shooting in Jacksonville was briefly streamed live on Twitch. Video captured the sounds of gunfire through the players' headsets before the stream was interrupted.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.