Football, basketball, baseball and volleyball are no longer the most popular sports in the nation. Esports are taking over the nation and captivating people of all ages.
Esports are any games facilitated by an electronic medium. This can include console gaming on platforms like Xbox and PlayStation or PC.
Some people, like freshman Andrew Hayworth, dedicate hours of their time training and preparing for Esport competitions. Luckily for Hayworth, it is all paying off. He is attending a video game competition called DreamHack May 6-7 in Austin, Texas.
Hayworth is a music education major and after classes and homework, he spends his free time gaming.
“I really started playing video games at four or five years old,” Hayworth said. “Just about everyone in my family plays games, or at least my brother, dad and grandpa all play. Specifically, we play computer games.”
Hayworth prefers to play games that require a lot of strategy.
“I play a lot of different kinds of games… I usually find a game I really like and then play it for months on end until I get tired of it,” Hayworth said.
The game Hayworth has prepared to take to the Esport competition in Austin is “Starcraft II.”
The original “Starcraft” came out in 1999 and, according to gaming website Adanai, was one of the first games that made Esports popular.
“Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” is a real-time military strategy game. It was released in 2010 and has been a focus for Esporting events ever since.
The World Championship Series (WCS) is the blanket network running DreamHack.
Each year is broken up into three seasons to allow viewers to easily follow the tournaments. Each tournament can earn a gamer WCS points if he or she performs well. Once the gamer has enough points, he or she is able to move up a ladder.
Gamers with enough points are invited to play in the final WCS tournament and the winner receives $150,000. Last year, the tournament lasted four weeks and consisted of 73 games, according to gaming website lolesports.com. Over the course of those four weeks, the tournament had 334 million people tuning in everyday.
The Austin tournament will be hosting competitions for “Starcraft II” as well as other games such as “Counter Strike: Global Offense,” “Hearthstone,” “Heroes of the Storm,” “Smash,” “Streetfighter” and “Pay Day II.”
Hayworth is competing in the open bracket portion of the tournament. Few were invited to compete, but others who were ranked high enough on the ladder were able to enter into an open bracket. Hayworth is in the Master’s league, so he is roughly in the top 2 percent of players in North and South America.
“If I can, (I would like to) make it out of the open bracket, but there will be a lot of really good people there,” Hayworth said. “I am more just going for the experience, to meet people I have met online and played games against. Depending on how well I do at this tournament, I might take this summer to get as good as I can.”
For tournaments, players spend hours every day training themselves to know each game inside and out.
“This semester, I go to classes and do all of my homework in between classes,” Hayworth said. “Then I go home at 4 or 5 p.m. and I will play until I go to bed. I play on the ladder to keep my ladder rank up and watch replays from Koreans.”
DreamHack will be held in North America for the first time ever in 2016. It normally takes place in various locations around Europe. At these tournaments, the primary gamers are Korean and everyone else is considered a foreigner.
However, at this tournament, Koreans will not be in attendance because of poor U.S. and Korean relationships.
A total of 96 people will attend the tournament and 88 of them will be in the open bracket.
Northwest does not offer an Esports program, but several other universities such as San Jose State, Harvard and Florida State have adopted the new wave of sports. These universities even give out scholarships for gamers.
“I think Esports on campuses is something that will inevitably happen,” Hayworth said. “Whether they want it to or not, it’s growing and there are already collegiate leagues popping up… It’s a multimillion dollar enterprise.”
Sophomore chemistry major Nick Baker believes having an Esports program on campus would bring the community together.
“I had a bunch of friends in high school because of video games. I even ended up rooming with one of them here,” Baker said. “Common interests like that help you connect with people. It gives you something to do when you are hanging out.”
Junior vocal music major Josh May is not interested in Esports on campus for the competitive aspect, but for bringing together of gamers from different cultures and perspectives.
Baker has similar views. He does not know if he would participate on an Esport team, however, he is interested in watching others play and become a part of that community.
The most common place for gamers to share their experiences and interact with other gamers is Twitch, an online streaming source that broadcasts live video of gamers playing popular games and narrating their actions and lives.
According to the Twitch advertizing website, there are over 1.7 million unique broadcasters on the network with over 100 million viewers.
Senior Austin Diedrichs plays video games and streams his content on Twitch occasionally.
“I only had like, five viewers, most of which were my friends,” Diedrichs said. “It almost seems like you’re talking to yourself because there is just a camera in front of you while you play games, but it honestly doesn’t feel that much different than talking to my friends online while playing games.”
Diedrichs said he does not have a lot of experience streaming, but he cannot imagine doing it as a fulltime career like some gamers do.
“I couldn’t imagine keeping up that much energy while I play,” Diedrichs said. “I play recreationally, like a lot, but still just recreationally. Sometimes I play when I am in a bad mood and playing makes me happier. I feel like it would be hard to stay excited on camera all the time.”
Hayworth has some advice for anyone looking to start competitive gaming.
“Be ready to be criticized for it all. When I tell people I plan on playing ‘Starcraft’ 10 hours a day this summer, people give me flack for it,” Hayworth said. “It takes a lot of dedication and commitment, but if it is something you are passionate about, it is understandable and you should pursue it.”