Esports is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but what is it?
Simply, it’s competitive video gaming.
But isn’t that just for guys sitting in their bedroom eating Doritos?
Well no, think again.
New high score
192 million people watch or play esports around the world, with 1.5 million in Australia. In fact, Fox Sports Australia live streamed a 2019 Grand Final to over 162,000 people. That’s way more than would fit in the MCG!
There’s big money in esports too. Revenue from the sport will surpass US$1 billion globally this year, while the 2019 International Champions had a prize pool of US$30 million.
Elite esports players focus on fitness and nutrition as much as other athletes in order to develop the lightning reflexes needed at the top level. Think of it like motor sport – man and machine working together.
National Clubs League
The Australian Esports League (AEL) has set up a national Clubs League. The league runs from February to November and consists of local, regional and then national events pitting individuals against each other. Participants might be pros at perfecting Pikachu’s Poké-power or magicians at mesmerising defences with Messi, but they all compete with two aims; to beat the opposition, and to have fun doing it.
AEL currently has 10 Australian clubs on board and set up with the facilities to host competitions.
“Clubs are the ideal location for esports. They already have the infrastructure and they’re already seen as a community hub,” says Sarah Jae, Director of the Australian Esports League.
Sarah describes having an esports rig at clubs as being like a local skatepark or BMX park, just for esports. It’s a place for people to go and connect socially doing something they love.
How do clubs get involved?
Clubs don’t need to work it out for themselves. AEL works with clubs to get them set up and hit the ground running.
It’s usually less than $10,000 for equipment costs and AEL will help with the setup for competitive events. Then there’s just the League fee to become part of the National Clubs League.
We see Esports as a great way to invite a new group of people to our club…Julie Milsom, DOOLEYS
AEL is the first point of contact and Sarah says she’s heard firsthand how becoming a venue for esports has introduced new, younger members to clubs they didn’t even know existed.
“In some ways it reinvigorates clubs that already provide a space for many people but are looking for ways to connect with a younger generation,” says Sarah.
And that sentiment is echoed by the clubs. DOOLEYS in Lidcombe, New South Wales, is getting on board with esports.
“DOOLEYS is excited to be launching esports in our Lidcombe venue in late January,” says Julie Milsom, Executive Manager Maketing & Community Relations at DOOLEYS.
“Clubs provide a fun and relaxed environment for people to come together, connect and socialise. We see Esports as a great way to invite a new group of people to our club – to invite them to experience all the great hospitality, facilities and connections that DOOLEYS has to offer.”
And it’s not just for RSL and diggers clubs. It’s open to sport clubs too, as long as they have some existing infrastructure.
From pokies to PS4s
For decades, clubs have been a place for veterans to meet and chat. However, most people leaving the ADF now are more likely to be found in the gym or hanging out in virtual spaces online.
“The younger generation aren’t sitting on pokies, they’re sitting on PS4s,” says Sarah.
But why go to a club to play video games when you can just play at home?
“You can’t beat face-to-face interaction and making real, solid friendships,” says Sarah. “We know these guys are looking for social connection and we know they play video games. Esports is a way of creating that social connection.”
The history of sport in Defence tells us that veterans connect with social competitive environments. Typically, it’s footy or athletics but esports provides the same environment and the same challenges.
We know these guys are looking for social connection and we know they play video games. Esports is a way of creating that social connection.Sarah Jae, Director, Australian Esports League
The value of esports
While there’s no cheat code for life, we’ve seen time and again the positive impact that sport can have. That includes esports.
“Sport is so important,” says Sarah. “Sport just carries you through the hardest time. People don’t get the importance – it’s social, it’s community.”
Competitive events are open to everyone, and while the idea is based around competition, the AEL provides a social and fun environment.
The best way for people to get involved is to visit the AEL website and search for closest participating club. From there you can register online or just turn up and register on the night of the next comp.
Let VSA know if you’re keen to get involved in esports. Just get in touch.