Joystick jockeys not just fooling around in the Denver area

Esports world is booming and colleges, celebrities want in


In esports or competitive video games, a player is like a Formula 1 driver, says James Love. He says every reaction in the two sports demands intense, unbroken focus, and adds that esports athletes incorporate multiple gym workouts into their training schedule.

“The notion that esports players aren’t athletic is ignorant and outdated, to be blunt. Serious players put in six to 10 hours of gaming per day in order to hone their skills, and even though it looks like they’re sitting still, they’re exerting a lot of effort,” said Love, a communications director for the Philadelphia-based esports network N3rd Street Gamers, in an email.

The esports network opened up the Lakewood-based Localhost esports arena last year, an 18,000-square-foot facility that offers 120 custom-built gaming PCs and video game consoles like Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s and a 60-foot stage for events and tournaments. Love says business has been well, noting that the esports arena has put on “huge” three-day championship events with combined prizes of $25,000.

It’s expected that global esports revenue will exceed $1 billion this year, according to a report by esports analytics firm Newzoo. The esports industry has seen names like former MLB player Alex Rodriguez, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez investing in esports companies and teams.

“While gaming has always been a form of entertainment, three factors contributed to it becoming a sport: competition, tournaments and spectators. The number of people who count video games as a primary source of entertainment and leisure has been growing steadily since the invention of the joystick, plus more and more video games are being designed with the core goal to be played competitively against others,” said Love. “On top of that, you have an increasing amount of brands and products that consider esports the best way to reach their target demographic.”

Competition through video games

Ryan Barr started running esports tournaments in Colorado before he took his line of work to a national level. In that role, he’s traveled around the country, including to New York, Illinois, California and Pennsylvania.

Now he is focused on providing a platform for any esports player through The National Championship Series. The league gives esports players an opportunity to compete in video games such as Call of Duty, Fortnite and others. Competitors earn points based on participation and placement in games. In turn, those points can get esports players to national competitions.

“Everyone is a gamer, that’s the reality. Some people are not accepting to the fact that they are a game, because they might be more on the casual side,” said Barr who is commissioner of The National Championship Series. “You can be competitive and still have fun.”

Scholarships through video games

One of the focuses of the National Championship Series is to not only give esports players a platform to get recognized by professional esports teams — it also aims to help esports players show their skills to colleges.

According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, there are 151 colleges and universities that offer varsity esports programs. The schools offer partial or full-ride athletic scholarships where esports players are coached. Over 70 schools associated with the National Association of Collegiate Esports offer scholarships.

In Colorado, schools like Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Johnson & Wales University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the University of Denver have esports teams.

“I have the passion for the game, and it’s just my passion to become pro. Esports is a sport, and people are starting to recognize it,” said Gavin Norman, an 18-year-old esports player who has participated in The National Championship Series.


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