The rise of esports: Why the next big thing isn’t on the field, it’s online

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For decades, video games have only grown in popularity. Throughout the past year, chances are you or someone you know has played games such as “Fortnite,” “Minecraft” or “League of Legends.”

As recreational gaming has taken off, so has the esports industry, where a select few play for highly trained teams and leagues, bringing in millions of viewers and even more money.

Some of those pro-teams are based right here in Las Vegas.

Kyle lander is team captain for “DarkZero Esports,” based in Las Vegas, with a team specializing in “Rainbow Six Siege” — a popular tactical shooter game.

“I used to strive to play games, and I was always competitive in sports, and that translated to gaming as well,” Lander said. “It’s basically very dependent on strategy.”

Lander and his teammates train eight hours a day, six days a week.

“Whether it’s setting up a defense, setting up attacks, we almost run it like a football team with different plays,” Lander said.

At the helm of DarkZero is player-turned-coach Brandon Carr.

“There’s a lot of training that goes into hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and anything with the eyes in general,” Carr said.

Carr says the structure of an esports team mirrors any other athletic program. While it may be new to digest, it is serious, and its popularity is growing.

“Over the next 10 to 20 years, you’ll see that entire view-point shift, because the people giving those opinions are the people who actually grew up playing this,” Carr said.

Over the past few years, DarkZero has gone from having a couple thousand people watching, to traveling the world for invitationals.

“It will be the future, eventually, it’s still young but I mean the growth rate is almost unimaginable,” Carr said.

While there is massive growth, the esports industry is still new, so there are some unknowns for investors. At the UNLV Black Fire Innovation Lab, they are using research to take away that risk.

“I think there is a big future for esports in Las Vegas,” said Dr. Robert Rippee, Executive Director of Black Fire Innovation Hub UNLV. “We look at the environments it might operate in, the business models it might function under and how it integrates with other components of the resort as well.”

Rippee says Las Vegas is on the right track, pointing to the HyperX Esports Arena.

“So the question becomes what can you learn from that and apply it to the evolution of that,” Rippee said.

They are now looking into different venue sizes and creating a more spectator-friendly environment.

“It’s big and it draws a massive audience. So, I think we have the opportunity really to be at the forefront of that,” Rippee said. “Facilities like this, man, that’s where it could start.”

For those who want to make esports their full-time job, we asked DarkZero about that career path.

While it’s an exciting industry, they still recommend pursuing education and having a back-up plan. The reason being — the lifespan of an esports career is typically short. This is mainly due to burnout from games.

They say you need to have passion and drive to make it to the top.

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