Sports Adjacent: How to Watch eSports & Other Virtual Competitions

Sports is one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment. From Buenos Aires to Capetown to Bangalore to Tokyo, sports fans regularly gather to cheer on their favorite athletes and teams. The FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games are by far the most-watched events, regularly bringing in more than a billion viewers—which is one-fourth of the world’s population. 

Clearly, people love sports, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. But there’s a unique niche forming for sports fans who are starting to explore the world of eSports. Historically, gamers and sports fans haven’t had too much in common. Though sports simulations are a hugely popular category within gaming, most people prefer to either play the sport virtually or physically.

In other words, there haven’t been too many crossover fans who circulate between watching their favorite sports leagues and their favorite eSports leagues. But why is this? Esports teams function similarly to real-life sports teams in that individuals must develop their natural-born skills and learn to work with teammates to catapult their side to the top. As it happens, watching these contests take place in the real world versus virtual settings actually changes things quite a bit. 

If you’re looking to transfer your love of sports to a love of eSports, we have a few tips for you.

The Original Format

Many sports fans have a background in watching live poker at least once. Especially during the early 2000s, poker content was at an all-time high around the world. Globally, thousands of players were flocking to online platforms, breathing life into the poker industry.

Others stuck to spectatorship, glued to their screens as tournaments unfolded. But to understand what they were watching, many people had to look into the rules of the game, the nuances of strategies, and how they usually unfold. After only a short period of study, many got the hang of it—and much of that is thanks to the broadcasters who break down what happens. Just like in a live sports game, in-game commentators are available to articulate what spectators are seeing. 

So, while it might seem like eSports are highly niche and hard to understand, none are quite as trying as a game like Texas Hold’em. In other words, don’t let yourself be intimidated by the learning curve.

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Esports: Many Leagues & Many Niches

If you were able to dive into the world of poker spectatorship, then you’re already ahead of the pack when it comes to eSports. One way that many newcomers shoot themselves in the foot is by thinking they need to explore multiple leagues, from the ESL (Counter-Strike) to The Championship (Dota 2). But this is like saying a baseball fan needs to follow the NBA. 

In other words, think about eSports as just that—individual sports that play out differently and that tend to have different types of fans. If you enjoy playing first-person shooters, then follow a league that’s local to your region and that covers your favorite game, whether Call of Duty or Counter-Strike. If you aren’t sure where to start and aren’t a gamer yourself, then consider following a league that covers racing games, fighting games, or sports simulations—these are the easiest for beginners to follow.

Starting Off with Sports Simulations

The easiest way to transition from sports to eSports is to stick with the same athletic interests—whether football, basketball, or soccer. In fact, there are thousands of hardcore sports fans who like to immerse themselves by playing an official simulation of their favorite league. This includes the NBA 2K League (NBA), the ePremier League (Premier League), and the Madden NFL Championship Series (NFL).

All three leagues mentioned above have official simulations that include the name, image, and likeness of their top players and teams. They also host official eSports leagues. Each runs slightly differently, but the goal is to allow players to represent their real-life favorite team in virtual competitions. The NBA 2K League even has a player draft for its eSports counterparts, which showcases just how closely its eSports league runs to its live NBA league. This makes it easy for spectators to follow—both in terms of matches and in terms of season structure.

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