A deadly shooting at a video game tournament in Florida has drawn attention to the competitive world of esports, where gamers playing Madden NFL 19 chase $1.25 million in prizes through a series of events all over the country.
Authorities say 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself Sunday at a Madden tournament being held at a riverfront mall in Jacksonville.
Madden is one of the most popular sports titles in gaming, with championships televised on ESPN and fans also following along on streaming services like Twitch.
Here are some questions and answers about the competitions and the larger world of esports:
WHAT IS ESPORTS?
Video gamers have been competing for digital supremacy dating to Pong and Pac-Man and the pastime of esports has been especially popular outside the United States, in countries like South Korea.
Market analyst Newzoo projects the industry will do $1.7 billion in revenue by 2021.
Most competitive esports are played on PCs, though many gamers play on Xbox One or Playstation 4. Some of the most popular esports titles include League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter Strike and Overwatch, while other events are being developed for the massively popular Fortnite.
HOW DO MADDEN COMPETITIONS WORK?
Madden is a football game that closely mirrors the chess match of the sport: Players try to outsmart one another with play selections on offense and defense and then compete to execute those plays on the field. Tournaments match competitors against one another often in single-elimination games, putting pressure on participants to win immediately or be eliminated.
The Florida tournament was one of four feeder tournaments awarding $5,000 in prizes and more importantly, two spots in the Madden Classic final scheduled to be held in Las Vegas in mid-October. That title awards $25,000 to its winner, and is but one of four "EA majors" hosted by the game's developer, Electronic Arts.
WHAT IS TWITCH?
The Madden competition Sunday was streamed live on Twitch.
Twitch is an online network, owned by retail giant Amazon, that attracts millions of users to watch live and recorded footage of others playing video games. Twitch.tv is one of the world's biggest sources of internet traffic and its top streamers are able to support themselves simply by playing and streaming for users, earning ad revenue and small subscription fees for certain perks.
IS ESPORTS REALLY CONSIDERED SPORTS?
Opinions vary widely and it may not truly matter. Video games do require physical skill. For every game there's a spectrum of natural abilities, with some players boasting better reactions and coordination. Games like Madden are heavy on strategy while others rely on teamwork. People in the industry like to compare esports to darts, billiards or chess.
Professional gamers get there based on talent and hard work. Most game titles have multiple levels of competition, including lower-level leagues, tournaments and invitationals. It's a grind, with most players practicing at least six days a week, six hours a day during their seasons.
For the industry, the argument only matters insofar as it affects visibility.
HOW IS ESPORTS RISING?
While video game viewing might be a novel concept in the United States, it's quite common in some other markets. South Korea has entire television networks dedicated to esports, and gaming events there routinely draw tens of thousands of attendees. Korean esports stars live lavish, celebrity lifestyles, with top players achieving a status similar to that of LeBron James in America.
ESPN, Twitch and other networks want to attract more millennial and Generation Z viewers, and competitive gaming seems like an obvious point of connection. The International Olympic Committee is also exploring ways to partner with the esports industry, even hosting a forum this summer at the Overwatch League finals to bring together gaming executives, players, sponsors and event organizers.