The Story and Purpose Behind Exploring Esports

Sean R. Nicholson - Author of Exploring EsportsHi! We’re Sean and Deb Nicholson and we want to thank you for stopping by Exploring Esports!

As a gamers ourselves and parents of a teenager who is into online gaming, we have a lot of interest in the world of online gaming and its ongoing evolution into the professional world of esports. We’re lucking to share our gaming passion with our teenager, so we spend a lot of time talking about various games, who’s who in the world of esports, which teams are doing well, etc…

Our son is also working hard to become a collegiate-level player, and eventual aspires to a professional career in esports.

Yes…you read that right. Our son wants to make money playing “video games”“.

Yeah…But Can People Really Make Money Playing Games Online?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer takes a bit more explanation.

My History With Online Gaming

The world of online gaming has evolved a long way from when we first started. For instance, Sean’s first “online” game was called Dungeon, and was the predecessor to Zork. My dad and I used an Apple II computer and an ancient modem to dial-up and play over a phone line.

Heaven forbid someone knocked the phone cradle off the modem and the connection was severed. We’d have to dial back up and start from the beginning.

Keep in mind that the reason we dialed-in to play is because the Apple II didn’t have a floppy drive with enough capacity to play Zork from a disk. So…we dialed into a mainframe and played from there. That’s how long Sean has been playing video games.

In our son’s world of terabyte hard drives, intensely-powerful graphical processors, and 4K definition monitors, the fidelity, variety, and gameplay has become something that we’re sure 1970s-era game developers couldn’t even imagine.

Its awesome to see how a game like Zork could give rise to a game like Dead By Daylight.

Watching The Gaming Industry Evolve

Not only have the games themselves evolved, but the entire industry of gaming has “grown up”.

This world of Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League, Counterstrike: Global Offensive (CSGO), World of Warcraft and a host of other online games has opened up new opportunities for this generation to potentially make a career in the world of video games.

Whether it’s developing games, testing games, designing games, playing games, coaching esports teams, recruiting players, gamecasting matches, or serving as talent agents, the potential career growth in the industry is continuing to expand.

In fact, the world of esports and the professions that are coming into existence are very similar to those in the world of athletic sports like soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.

Think of it this way:

  • Every fan needs a game.
  • Every game needs a player.
  • Every player needs a coach.
  • Every coach needs a team.
  • Every team needs a sponsor.
  • Every sponsor wants to spend money to bring exposure of their brand or product to the fans.

As long as people want to cheer for esports and there are sponsors that want to connect with those people, there will be money to be spent on the players, coaches, and teams.

Online gaming continues to evolve as a training ground for esports teams

This means that anyone wanting to play, coach, recruit, or manage an esports team has an opportunity to earn money playing online games.

In our son’s case…he wants to play Rocket League at the collegiate level and, eventually, professionally.

How Does Someone Get Involved In Esports?

The answer is…just like any other sport.

An oversimplified, but pretty straight-forward list of steps would go something like this:

Step 1 – Play A Lot Of Different Games

If your child is like ours, they probably grew up playing a bunch of different sports. Our son played soccer, flag football, learned karate, and played baseball. It wasn’t until his early teens that he really focused on playing baseball as his primary sport and decided to focus on it.

At the same time, he also played a lot of video games. Titles like Mario Kart, Lego Batman, Lego Harry Potter, Halo, FIFA, and Call of Duty got a lot of screen time at our house. The variety of games helped him determine what style of games he liked to play.

Step 2 – Spend MORE Time Playing Fewer Games

As he entered his teens, we found that he was spending more time on just a few games.

He started to really focus on playing games like Destiny and Halo. Our X Box was a lot of screen time as he started playing with friends online. This focus on fewer games helped him hone his skills and become a better player.

Step 3 – “The Talk” About Too Much Gaming

I can almost guarantee you that any parent with a teen who plays online games has had “the talk”. It usually includes phrases like:

  • “you’re spending too much time online”
  • “you need to get more real-life friends”
  • “your grades are suffering because you’re spending too much time on the (computer, X Box, PlayStation, etc…)”
  • “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing”

Sound familiar?

Having a healthy discussion with your teen about online gaming and esports

We had “the talk” with my son around 13. He was struggling a bit in school and video games were a natural place to recoup time that could be focused on studying.

Step 4 – Setting Priorities

Luckily, Deb and I have very open conversations with our son and he expressed to us that more time focused on school wasn’t really the problem. It was just that video games were much more interesting.

He also told us that he was starting to think that he might like to play at a level where he could consider himself an “online gamer”.

He talked to us about streaming. He showed us other players who were making a living online. And he introduced us to “Rocket League”- the game he wanted to focus on, similar to his athletic focus on baseball.

So, we made him a deal. The priority of activities in his life needed to be:

      1. School
      2. Baseball
      3. Gaming

If he kept his grades up and continued to play baseball, we would let him continue to game at the level he needed to in order to work toward collegiate recruitment and/or professional recruitment.

Step 5 – Dedication, Commitment, And Practice

As with any sport, it’s all about practice, practice, practice.

Think of the number of kids who grow up wanting to be the next Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, or Steph Curry. How many of those kids actually grow up to be pro-level players? What holds them back? Usually dedication, commitment, and practice.

As with any sport, the key to online gaming and esports is dedication and practice

The same situation is happening in the world of online gaming. Millions of kids play Fortnite, Call of Duty, CS:GO, League of Legends, Rocket League, or a ton on of other games. Very, very few actually play long enough and work hard enough to enter the world of esports.

…and therein lies the difference between online gaming and esports. Online gaming is something anyone with a PC or game console can do.

It’s just casual gaming on your own schedule.

Becoming an esport player, on the other hand, requires thousands of hours of practice. It requires traveling to tournaments. It requires investing in high-quality equipment. It requires passion, dedication, and LOTS and LOTS of time.

Step 6 – Making A Name For Your Player

In this stage, the similarities between esports and athletic sports are pretty much the same.

It doesn’t matter how good your kid is…if no one knows about them.

This is often a tough one for parents in both esports and athletic sports to deal with. It means hard work getting your child in front of recruiters.

It means traveling to tournaments so scouts can see them play. It means believing enough in your child’s talent and passion to invest time and money into a future that might not come to fruition.

It means taking a risk.

To be honest, this is the phase that we are in with our son. He has dedicated thousands of hours of play into Rocket League. He has kept up his end of the bargain and maintained good grades, while also playing baseball on a team he really likes.

Now it’s time for us to support him in his vision.

To do that, we travel all over the Midwest to enter him into tournaments where he plays against other regional players. He’s still in high school and he’s playing against college teams.

And he’s winning.

At the time of this posting, he is now a four-time tournament champion in Rocket League and has won tournaments in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

I don’t say that to brag (okay…a little), but to demonstrate his dedication to practice and his commitment to his goal is paying off.

Step 7 – Choose A Path That Leads To College Or Professional Play

This one is on the horizon for us.

Because our son is playing (and winning) against college-level players, the college coaches have started to recruit him. We receive cards from coaches asking us to consider coming to campus for a visit.

We have talked with 6-8 different college recruiters who have Rocket League on their varsity esports rosters.

There is a growing number of schools who are adding esports to their lists of varsity sports and most are offering partial and, sometimes, full-ride scholarships to players.

As with other sports, there are also players who choose to skip the collegiate league and go straight to the pro level. This is more rare and really requires an intense talent, combined with a notoriety that was gained through game-play and streaming. These folks have usually participated in national or world-level tournaments and succeeded at a level that pro teams recruit them.

For us, the plan that we have developed with our son is one that focuses on a college path first. If a pro opportunity arose, we would evaluate it…but we’re focusing on a college path first.

Step 8 – Play, Adapt, Grow.

Whether it’s at the collegiate esports level or at the pro level, players have to maintain their skills. Just as with athletic sports, there are always newer, younger, hungrier, more talented players on the rise.

Professional eSport players must continue to evolve and adapt their skills

Players who make the collegiate or pro-level teams have to continue to practice, adapt, and grow. They have to earn their spot on the team with every practice, every match, and every tournament. Luckily, they can learn from their coaches, teammates, and competition.

Step 9 – Plan For A Career Beyond Playing

Who knows where the future of esports is going to take us. This activity is so new and there are so many unknowns.

It is likely, however, that if your child does have the talent and dedication to become a collegiate or pro player, they aren’t going to do it for the rest of their lives. They might lose interest. They might lose their skills. They might find another passion. They might hurt their thumbs or experience some other injury that prevents them from playing.

The smart players have a plan for what they want to do beyond esports.

For our son, that is a career in graphic or video design. He understands that having a backup plan beyond gaming is smart and he was accepted into a college-prep program focusing on design.

As with any sport, it’s a good idea not to put all of your eggs into one basket.

Step 10 – Who Knows…Because This Industry Is Still In Its Infancy

We’d love to tell you that we know what step 10 is…but we don’t even think the pro players right now know the answer to that question. Maybe we’ll come back and update this post in five years with the answer 😉

Our Goals For Exploring Esports

Our only goal (right now) for this site is to help parents understand the complex world of online gaming and esports. This ever-changing industry is growing by the minute and it’s tough enough for those of us who are gamers to keep up with it.

If we can help other parents understand what activities their kids are engaging and how those gaming activities could lead to a potential college scholarship or even a full-blown career, then that’s great.

We also want to help parents understand the potential negative activities that kids might be engaging in. Online bullying, sharing of highly personal data, and engaging in other harmful activities can be negative side-effects of online gaming, so let’s be sure that parents understand what’s going on so they can identify potentially harmful activities.

The Next Steps For This Site

We hope this first post provides some insights into the journey that we are currently on with our son. We hope it helps other parents start thinking about esports as a career option for their child.

In the future, we’ll be working to create content and further answer questions like:

…and so many more questions.

If you have a question we can help with, be sure to leave it in a comment or reach out via the contact form. Also, be sure to sign up for our email list so you can receive notifications of new posts.


–Sean and Deb

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