eSports Ready – “I make a living playing video games”


How would you feel about a person saying, “I make a living playing video games.”

Since I have introduced Twitch in my last blog post, I think one cannot simply talk about Twitch without mentioning video games. And not just any video game, or video games in general, but the word E-Sports.

E-Sports or many-called Sports 2.0 is essentially a form of competition using video games. My first encounter with E-sports started with Warcraft 3. I remembered in 2005, Li “Sky” Xiaofeng, a Chinese professional Warcraft 3 player took the championship at the World Cyber Games and became the first Chinese World Champion in a video game. This feat was definitely the turning point for me, or even for the entire Chinese E-Sports industry.1280px-World_Cyber_Games,_Singapore,_2005

Pic: World Cyber Games 2005 in Singapore

According to Wikipedia, “the earliest known video game competition took place on 19 October, 1972 at Stanford University for the game Spacewar,” and the first prize was a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone, PRETTY BIG DEAL. Just like many other traditional games, or sports like tennis, soccer, video game competitions started to grow exponentially. With Atari held The Space Invaders Championship (classic retro-game) in 1980, it became the first large scale video game competition, attracting more than 10,000 participants across the United States.

Pic: Spacewar on a vintage computer(left); Old Space Invaders poster (right)

As we moving along the timeline, the introduction of Internet brought online video games into the sights of gamers all around the world. More and more games were played competitively, and more and more video-games tournaments were held globally. At the early 2000s, three video games were at the center stage of E-sports: Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and Warcraft 3.


However, comparing to that, nowadays, E-sports IS OVER 9,000 (which means the industry is so much bigger now). Countless video games are competed on the professional level. One of the biggest drivers that pushes eSports is the tournament prize money. During the 2017 Dota2 International, the total prize pool was at $24,787,916 with the first place taking over $10 million. Moreover, eSports teams are now organized like typical sports teams, with coaches, managers, company sponsors, etc. Gamers would practice in a gaming-house with their team members, 8-hours a day on a schedule, traveling for tournaments, receiving a salary just like any other sports athlete.

Now, why should you care? Because eSports Industry is becoming one of the biggest and fastest growing digital industries. According to Goldman Sachs, the eSports industry was at $500 million value in 2016 with an annually compounded growth rate of 22% in the next three years. eSports industry is moving into mainstream driving revenues, growth and investor’s attentions. Just name a couple examples: NBA has announced that it will launch its own eSports league for basketball games, 2K, in 2018. ESPN has also introduced the eSports section as well as buying eSports broadcasting rights.

FUN FACT: Actually, ESPN broadcasted the tournament Heroes of the Dorm in 2016, and BOSTON COLLEGE ACTUALLY MADE TOP 8 IN THE NATION! ! !

The point is that, although you may not be a gaming enthusiast, the growing trend of eSports industry should not be neglected. In my opinion, soon enough, many fortune 500 companies would start moving into this new arena if not already. With Amazon acquiring Twitch, video games are no longer just video games.

With all that being said, whether eSports or video games should be part of the social mainstream is still controversial. Many voices are calling that eSports cannot be an actual sport, playing video games does not actually contribute to the society, or sitting in front of computer for so long might not be good for your health. Currently, video games still has the connotation of addiction, obesity, social awkwardness such and such. However, while people think that video games are only a kids-thing, I see great future for eSports.




  1. tylercook95 · ·

    Hi this is a really cool blog topic! I feel like if you had asked me how I felt about someone making a living on video games 10 years ago I would have felt a mix of jealousy and confusion. When I was younger my parents didn’t want me playing video games unless it was raining out or I had finished all of my other work. I feel like as you said since the industry has grown so much recently there comes a larger acceptance for the community. In an industry that is growing at such a fast rate, where players can make a lot of money if they are in the top ranks, it could be a very lucrative career. I think the stereotypes around video games being for people who are lazy is being taken away as we see gaming becoming a bigger aspect of live tournament life. The rise of this popularity could be from the thousands of videos on youtube of people playing video games. Do you think that has helped make esports into the industry it is today? Youtube gives gamers like markiplier and pewdie pie a large reach and probably gives competitor gamers a similar platform to grow their popularity.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      The platforms, like YouTube are definitely catalyzing the process. But I would say Internet is the real-deal that kicks off video game industry as it literally connect anyone instantly. And platforms like YouTube give gamers the opportunity to monetize their experience when they don’t have to be the best at the game.

  2. Hey, Nero. I really appreciated your topic! I would be lying if I said I’ve never witnessed a Starcraft tournament or two streamed online. As this nascent industry continues its rise, I’m certain we will see much more normalization and exposure for professional gamers. In contrast to what parents have said in the past, you CAN make a living by playing video games. What a time to be alive! While it may be slightly different than more physically-rigourous sports, eSports can’t be discounted as a legitimate competition. It’s definitely more fast-paced and mainstream than older games such as chess!

    I believe the commercialization of eSports is both something to rejoice and be cautious about. Gamers are a particular demographic that don’t appreciate being blatantly marketed to for the sake of padding a company’s bottom line. Advertisements have to genuinely appeal to people’s hearts and minds, or else companies risk alienating themselves forever in this industry. However, the additional advertising revenue and sponsorship opportunities are indicative of the growing popularity of the sport, and can be used as a barometer of how seriously large companies are taking the industry in general. Amazon’s purchase of Twitch is a great example of how some forward-thinking companies are no longer ignoring the potential of eSports to continuously grow and expand its fan base.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      I was actually thinking about doing a post about how the gaming industry would and are going horribly wrong. Like you said, I feel many companies are jumping on the hype-train and just focusing on monetizing rather than providing meaningful content. I will do my research and try to give an insight on the topic in my next blog post. THX!

  3. HenryChenChen · ·

    Awesome post! Nero, I think the esports is much bigger in many Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan. And it is getting bigger in the U.S. I know that esports in China and South Korea has such a big market, there are many investors and big companies such as Samsung have invested in different e-sports league and teams. Thanks for the technology that gives games live streaming video platform such as Twitch, there are many online gamers make a lot of money from streaming their games.
    In the future, because of the rise of virtual reality games, I think the market of Esport and live game streaming will get bigger, and I agree with your point that many fortune 500 companies would start moving into this new arena.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      The eSports market in the U.S. could be much bigger depends on how you look at it. The prize money for tournaments were definitely greater outside Asian countries, but I feel like the eSports culture is much rooted in the Asian countries. It would be interesting to do a research on the topic in the future and I would definitely consider it. Thx for the reply as always!

  4. nescrivag · ·

    This is a great post since I have thought about this before. I used to associate video games with people that don’t have a social life and want to spend their time alone or with virtual friends. The fact that now it can be regarded as a ‘team sport’ makes it something that is more acceptable. While playing video games in excess is definitely not good for people, training according to a schedule makes it an okay 9-5. Being in front of a screen for that long is not healthy but most people now a days work office jobs where they spend most of their day sitting now in front of a computer.
    Furthermore I think that video games require a high level of intelligence and it requires a lot of strategy for people to be successful. I used to play Age of Mythology with my brother and there were 4 difficulties (easy, medium, hard and titan).It was very hard for me to win in the ‘hard mode’ and impossible to win on the ‘Titan’ mode, but I watched videos of people who were able to do it, therefore it requires practice to reach a level were you are considered ‘good’ at video games.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      Haha! really glad that people are thinking differently about video games nowadays. And I really like your story with video games. It has been a long-term goal for me to change how people view video games, or at least provide a different perspective, because I personally benefit tremendously from video games, even my name ‘Nero’ came from a video game character. I wish the industry really grow in a positive way in the future.

  5. RayCaglianone · ·

    To support the notion of E-sports joining the mainstream, I’ve seen major figures from other sports joining the ranks of E-sports owners and supporters. For example, former NBA player Rick Fox now owns his own organization, EchoFox, and has talked at length about the potential of E-sports in the present and the future. EchoFox started with just a League of Legends team, but now has a team for 8 different games and continues to grow. Other notable “cross-over” names from other sports that have invested in E-sports include Shaquille O’Neal (NBA), Jimmy Rollins (MLB), and Alex Rodriguez (MLB). And that doesn’t even include the high profile owners like Robert Kraft (Patriots) and Fred Wilpon (NY Mets) that are buying/investing in E-sports teams. The way things are looking now, I certainly wouldn’t be shocked to soon see E-sports as an equal in American popular culture to some of our oldest pastimes like baseball, basketball, and football. It certainly seems like the important figures in those sports sure think so too.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      Whoa! I didn’t know the EchoFox has teams for 8 different games. I first know EchoFox was because of its CSGO team. As for now, I’m definitely excited to see how the future unfold.

  6. profgarbusm · ·

    Hi Nero!
    E-Sports should definitely be in the mainstream. I know it’s not inherently as athletic as basketball, football, etc but the hand eye coordination some of these professionals is absolutely insane. I remember when “BXR” was a huge combo (Hello, Halo 2 fans) but honestly what some of these guys can accomplish in a second is a physical miracle. Also particularly for strategy games there is a strong competitive component much the same as many team sports. My friend from HS actually is a pro at super smash bros melee (Darktooth is his IGN) and honestly with the time, effort and thought he put into it I don’t see why anyone would want to delegitimize it. Most people who are opposed I believe are not gamers and considerate an easy alternative, but the culture and time gamers put in to me is comparable to athletes. Check out the documentary “Free to Play” to see how big and crazy it can become. Asia has fully embraced it, and I believe the US is next.

    1. NeroC1337 · ·

      No doubt I have watched the “Free to Play” when it came out. I was into Warcraft back and then Dota 2. So when I saw that documentary I know the gaming industry is getting big really fast. And I would fight my life that eSports is an actual sports. I think anyone would agree with me if they have seen a professional Starcraft player playing. Not surprisingly Chinese Sports Administration has already listed eSports as part of the sports category. Good to hear sth from a gamer too, thx Matt!

  7. Nice post. I wonder if we’re headed to the NCAA version of eSports, where each school fields its own e-sports teams. Could be fun.

  8. DingnanZhou · ·

    E sport is definitely an interesting trend! When I was working on a project last summer, I got to know that in China, the way they are picturing the future of esports as doing NBA kind of league with competition going on. Esports also has a trend shifting from Laptop/desktop to mobile. I think mobile games will have more potential in the foreseeing future!

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