Beginners Guide to eSports: What’s Happening and What Games are Played?

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15 June 2020

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At first, the increasing field of eSports can be very difficult to tackle, no matter whether someone has past knowledge about computer games, mainstream sports. It’s almost impossible to have no knowledge of eSports now though, as eSports is projected to average 84 million viewers by 2021. That’s more than baseball and basketball. So, let’s talk about a basic eSports question, which has a very broad answer which can be a bit confusing as well. Which games are played in eSports? It’s a fair question and it makes sense, as eSports tournaments and leagues are generally focused around specific games. Most games that are played can be placed into one of four categories: MOBA, FPS, fighting, or sports.

MOBA

A MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, is by far the most popular genre in terms of viewership as well as prize money. Those two most popular MOBA games are currently League of Legends and DOTA 2. At Worlds 2019, League of Legends’ premiere tournament where teams across the world come to face each other, had a prize pool of over $2 million. That number is realistically higher due to in-game purchases going towards the prize pool; however, Riot Games hasn’t released the info on that as of the writing of this content. DOTA 2 is the king in terms of prize pools. At The International 2019, DOTA 2 dished out over $34 million in their prize pool to competing teams, with eventual tournament champions OG taking home over $15 million.

A Game of League of Legends Being Played Between Europe’s Fnatic and Korea’s KOO Tigers at Worlds in 2015. Photo courtesy of EsportList.GG.

In a MOBA, the game uses a 5v5 style of matches, with teams picking certain champions who all have unique sets of abilities and equipment. While being the most complex and having the hardest learning curve, MOBAs are looking to be the future of eSports.

FPS

FPS, or first-person shooter, is probably the eSport that most will be able to recognize. It’s an extremely simple genre: Two teams of players gear up with weapons and various loadouts and then they compete against each other in various game modes. The first FPS was Doom, released for PC in 1993. The game exploded (literally and figuratively) onto the gaming scene. Doom included a multiplayer game mode, paving the way for successful shooters to be released.

Eventually Counter-Strike would release their own game, commonly known as Counter-Strike 1.6. Counter-Strike, or CS for short, has been one of the most historic eSport titles of all time with tournaments starting all the way back in 1999. Their latest title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO for short) has ruled the FPS genre of eSports since it’s release in 2012. 

Valorant, Riot Games’ New FPS Has Taken Over the FPS Market in a Matter of Days. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A few other successful games in this genre are the newly released Valorant, Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty, and Overwatch. FPS games can also include, although not fully first-person, Fortnite and PlayerUnknown: Battlegrounds. These two incredibly popular games have many players, usually 100, competing in a Hunger Games competition, but with a lot more people and much more violence.

Overwatch’s Extremely Popular Hero, Genji.

Some FPS games take a more realistic approach to combat, with CS:GO being one of them. Others focus purely on unrealistic combat, such as Valorant or Overwatch, where players have abilities that no normal human should have. 

Fighting

Where the last two groups of games focus on a team’s ability, fighting games usually focus on one player’s skill and tactics in a round-based system. Every match is one player versus another, no teams. The largest tournament organizer and community, the Fighting Game Community (FGC for short) hosts some of the largest fighting game tournaments in the world where newcomers and pros go to compete.

Games that would fall into the fighting category are the Mortal Kombat series, Street Fighter series, and the extremely popular Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Although the fighting community has seen a slow decline in viewership and prize pools, tournaments are still ongoing.

Sports

          Lastly, and the easiest to explain, is sports games. It’s pretty straightforward, video games that replicate traditional sports, such as American football in Madden, soccer in FIFA, and hockey in NHL. You may even recognize some of the teams that eSports players are competing for, with European Soccer giants Roma, Paris Saint Germain, and Schalke 04 all fielding their own eSports teams.

Arguably the Largest and Most Popular ESport That Falls Under the Sports Genre, Electronic Arts’ FIFA 20 Has Begun Holding Their Own FIFA EWorld Cup. Photo Courtesy of Liquipedia.

Traditional sports don’t take up the entire sphere though, with games like Rocket League falling into the sports category. The goal of Rocket League is to control small cars and use teamwork to kick soccer balls into goals. Also, the cars have rockets on them. One significant point to remember is that, because the coattails of existing and mainstream sports may be used for sporting video games, it gives it a high profile in terms of official acceptance. Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic Committee for 2024, has been an advocate for bringing video games to the Olympics.

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