Arlington’s dominance as one of the top sports destinations on the planet will expand into the digital arena this week with the opening of Esports Stadium Arlington, a 100,000 square-foot gaming facility that is the largest Esports arena in North America. (Scroll down to the end of the article to get a look at upcoming Esports Stadium Arlington events.)
To find out more about the world of Esports, we asked Michael Ward, a professor of economics at UT Arlington who also serves as the faculty advisor to the UTA Esports Club, to share a bit of Esports insight:
First things first: For those of us who are unschooled, just what exactly are Esports?
Michael Ward: “Most succinctly, it is competitive video game playing. In similar fashion to the history of many actual sports, Esports have grown from a recreational pastime that dates back to the earliest days of the digital era to the current-day professional leagues with organized teams, tournaments, and millions of fans. In fact, professional Esports now represent a near billion-dollar global economy where professional players win hundreds of millions in prize money each year. (Want to learn more about the Esports economy? Read “Esports Superstars,” a paper co-authored by Michael Ward.)
“While casual Esports players often play against themselves (or against the game itself) on a gaming console system, arena Esports are usually played on computers by multi-player teams battling against other teams who may in the same room or across the ocean. Each player has a different role that supports the other players in collective pursuit of the overall objective of the game, much like baseball, football or baseball.
“Some of the most popular Esports games include Call of Duty, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Fortnite, but that’s just a sampling—there are hundreds of games and game genres available in the Esports world.”
How does one get started in Esports?
MW: “Many single player games are available to play online via free download. However, there is a strong social aspect to Esports in which gamers like to come together and share experiences. That’s why clubs like UTA’s Esports Club has weekly LAN (local area network) parties and other events.
“Esports calls for many skills in order to be successful, all of which can be developed with practice. These skills include quick reflexes, strategy, and cooperation and collaboration—in other words, knowing how to support the other members of your team.”
Why do you think that the popularity of Esports has surged in recent years?
MW: “When I was a kid, my friends and I played basketball and football where we learned to appreciate the great moves, the athleticism, the comradery and competition. My kids still enjoy these pursuits, but their generation has also added video games to the mix. They get the same excitement from watching a great move or strategy unfolding, but now in a video game. It is what they grew up doing, and now they enjoy seeing how good some gamers have become.”
What should you know if you’re headed to watch your first Esports game at Esports Stadium Arlington?
MW: “Like actual sports, it helps if you understand game structure and strategy, which usually comes from having tried out the game yourself. But fans can come and support their team even if they don’t know much about the game, just like any other sporting event.
“During a match, which usually lasts about a half hour, you’ll be able to watch what the players are doing on giant screens. Just like in actual sports, audience members will cheer, yell, and groan, depending on what is happening in the game—but that doesn’t mean that anything goes. In Esports, the setup is such that audience members can see things that are happening or are going to happen that players can’t. It’s considered really bad form—in fact, it can even get you ejected— to yell out information that players aren’t supposed to have. It’s kind of like watching a movie in a theatre—you wouldn’t yell out spoilers unless you wanted to really annoy the people around you.”
Tell us about the UTA Esports Club.
MW: “UTA’s Esports Club is ever expanding, offering more each year and fielding competitive teams that have won regional and national championships. I am so proud of what these kids have built for all levels of gamers—not only are they competing in the big tournaments like the ones that will be held at the new stadium in Arlington, they are also hosting all-day events on campus where gamers of all abilities can socialize and compete in smaller events. It’s a very welcoming group.
“By the way: UTA is about to launch a certification program for Esports. Courses will include “The History of Video Games,” ”Music and Technology in Game Audio” and “Gaming Exploration Art”.
Esports Stadium Arlington
Opening November 24, 2018
November 24-25: Esports Championship Series Season 6: Expect thrilling Counter-Strike from across the globe as EU and NA’s finest CS:GO teams compete for ECS’s top prize of $3 million. Get tickets.
December 8: Collegiate Rocket League National Championship: The four best Regional Conference teams from North America will battle it out onstage for $25,000 in collegiate scholarship prizing. Get tickets.
December 29: Ultimatum: Super Smash Bros Ultimate Tournament: An all-skills-level tournament that will be broadcast live on Twitch. Learn more.