In 1972, 24 players gathered to compete in the world’s first esports tournament hosted at Stanford University.
The event was small, highly niche and the grand prize was a one year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Now, fifty years later, esports has evolved into an international billion dollar industry with millions of fans and competitors.
Esports has spread across the country, and many universities such as the University of California Irvine and Georgia State University have even developed varsity programs to cultivate up and coming talent.
Here at Long Beach State, the eSports Association is home to over a dozen teams split across 9 games,split by division. Typically with a primary A team, followed by a secondary and tertiary B and C team, with the amount of divisions varying depending on the amount of athletes competing in each game. These athletes then go on to represent Long Beach in competitions all over the country.
For some of these players, esports is an opportunity to combine two passions.
“I’ve always been into sports, and as a competitive person I also found a natural love for video games,” said fifth- year Aerospace Engineering major Weston Spencer.
Spencer is a member of CSULB’s “Rocket League ” A team, which is a game by publisher Psyonix in which players compete in a high speed match of vehicular soccer.
When it comes to preparing for competitions, training is just as important to esports players as it is for more traditional physical sports.
“I’m always playing, but the competitive season means that I will spend at least 2-3 hours each day seriously practicing,” Spencer said.
In addition to training, the mental fortitude that esports athletes must demonstrate in order to stay on top of their game can be intense. In Spencer’s case, his “Rocket League” team have played in competitions where their game was broadcasted to 25,000 people over the popular live streaming service Twitch.
“Thousands of hours of playing makes it easier to cope, but the pressure to compete can be very hard mentally,” Spencer said.
Esports athletes must also balance their schedule around the daily responsibilities of university life.
“Practice can definitely get in the way of school, so it’s important to manage your time well,” said second year undeclared student Kai Sickler.
A member of the division 1 CSULB “League of Legends” team, Sickler has found the social aspect of esports to be a very important part of competing.
“The people on the team really help me stay motivated. It’s really cool to get to know everyone and it’s fun to play with skilled players who are friendly,” Sickler said.
Riot Games officially released the multiplayer online battle arena “League of Legends” in 2009. And since then, the game has become one of the most popular online competitive games in the world. More than 100 million people tuned in to watch the last “League of Legends” world championship.
Esports has continued to grow over the years with little sign of slowing down. And despite the societal changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the esports market is still predicted to surpass $1.5 billion in worth by 2023.
The shift to online courses has been a radical shift for many of the students on campus. Fortunately for CSULB esports athletes, their competition seasons have still been allowed to continue as long as they remain virtual.
“Being online will likely make it easier to schedule,” Sickler said. “Not having to drive home right after class will make it easier to attend practices.”
Esports has grown massively in the past few decades, and it only continues to evolve. Here at the Beach, the CSULB eSports Association is also looking to take its next step. They are currently assembling a new competitive roster for Riot Games’ recently released First Person Shooter game, “Valorant.”
With a rapidly growing market and the influx of gaming into the mainstream, the future looks promising for aspiring esports athletes here at CSULB.