Esports, or competitive organized video gaming, is having a moment. Rather, it’s been having a moment for the past few years, but in our current state of social distancing and physical isolation, video games are proving to be a saving grace for many people in Colorado and around the globe.
Did you know that every four-year college in Colorado has some form of organized esports? And professional esports teams can be found all across the United States, participating in a number of competitive multiplayer games like Rocket League, League of Legends, and Fortnite. In fact, Kroenke Sports (owner of the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Rapids professional sports teams) also owns several esports teams in Los Angeles.
Colorado may not be explicitly known for video game prowess, but a recent study has revealed that our residents may be some of the most skilled gamers in the country. The study, commissioned by online gaming site Casumo and sponsored by Huxley’s eSports Elite team, pitted a pair of professional Counter-Strike players against a sample of 1,409 Americans. Participants played a number of games designed to measure various types of cognitive performance considered essential for esports. The findings? Colorado residents ranked among the greatest in the country, finishing in the top five for every skill tested.
For some, video games are more than sources of entertainment — they’re financially lucrative careers. Fortnite phenomenon Tyler “Ninja” Blevins made $17 million in 2019. And much of the fortune gamers make isn’t through competitions, but rather through sponsorships. After all, the top five gaming streamers on YouTube account for 59.5 billion total video views.
Still, in a recent survey, 46% of respondents said that they do not view esports as a real sport. And maybe that’s okay. Some gamers are simply playing for entertainment. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 65% of U.S. adults play video games. And a study from Deloitte Digital Media Trends revealed that one-third of American consumers and nearly 50% of Millennials and Gen Zers said that playing video games helped them through a rough time in their lives. Since the COVID pandemic began, 69% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have participated in some type of gaming. Perhaps that’s why over 200 million copies of Minecraft have been sold as of this past May.
That should come as no surprise. While 22% of slip/fall accidents result in more than 31 days out of work, the U.S. is seeing unemployment skyrocket due to the pandemic. As of July, roughly one in five workers are collecting unemployment benefits. And many are finding themselves with a lot of free time on their hands.
“But games are more than just empty time-wasters,” wrote Peter Suderman in his New York Times op-ed. “In periods of pain, boredom or personal emptiness, video games can serve as palliative care for both the body and the mind.” He adds, “And for those who are alone, games can also serve as social spaces … Many of today’s most popular games are online experiences that allow players to engage with friends as well as strangers, to forge digital versions of the same sort of bonds with teammates that can develop in the real world.”
Perhaps it’s time for video games to shed their bad rap, and what better place to start than in our own Colorado?