Tristan Ettleman

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

No sweat in esports, but plenty of mental rigor, cosplay fans and money

TEMPE – A gorilla with a laser gun draws a bead on a cybernetic archer with metal limbs.

A black-clad assassin aims her sniper rifle at the Grim Reaper, who’s armed with two shotguns.

Surrounded by fans and cosplayers, with thousands watching on their phones, laptops and desktops, four teams of esports competitors battled in February for video game supremacy from their screens on an Arizona State University stage.

Rome had its gladiators, the NFL has its quarterbacks, and the video game industry has esports players. This is sports in the tech universe, with a Fiesta Bowl Overwatch championship drawing more than 600 screaming fans on campus and an estimated 4,000 people watching online.

And that’s just college-level esports. One professional championship last year – named with sports-like hyperbole the League of Legends World Championship – claimed more than 60 million viewers, more than double the viewership for the championship game of the 2017 NBA Finals, according to “Variety.”