Around the world, fans pack into massive arenas to see their favorite teams battle for victory. But these players aren’t hitting home runs or scoring touchdowns—they’re sitting at computers, controlling video game characters!
Esports have soared in popularity since the early 2000s. But the first major video game competition took place in 1980. More than 10,000 people played in a Space Invaders Tournament. Rebecca Heineman, a 17-year-old student from California, won. She became the first national video game tournament champion.
Then tournaments for games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong popped up in arcades across the U.S. But modern esports took off in the late 1990s with online tournaments. The internet allowed players from around the world to compete against each other from their homes instead of at in-person events.
Today, some schools have teams for esports! Students play games like Overwatch and League of Legends. Unlike traditional sports teams, anyone regardless of gender can join the team. Players test strategies, train with different characters, and run practice games to prepare for competitions. “Players are not just video game players. They’re athletes,” says Amy Whitlock, a teacher and esports coach in Oswego, Illinois.