Even at this early hour, the gaming center was alive with activity. Flat screens flickered, keyboards clattered, and gamers (and a few scattered fans) cheered and high-fived. Open 24/7, the Gamesync Gaming Center in San Diego was always a beehive of activity—even on non-tournament days. Today, however, was especially busy as gamers sought to acclimate themselves with their surroundings and the subtleties of the arena.
“Anything to get an edge,” Tomas Castillo mused.
In just a few hours, the place would be even more packed with gamers strategizing and blasting their way from one level to another—ending some dreams while extending others—and gaming fans cheering their favorites on as they watched on the big screen. There was nothing like the vibe this place gave off on tournament day. There was electricity in the air, excitement.
Tomas imagined this must be what game day is like for professional athletes, then reminded himself that he was a professional athlete too. Esports wasn’t for the weak of mind, body, or spirit. You needed to be in good shape physically, possess a sharp mind able to make quick decisions, and you needed to have the emotional toughness and tenacity to keep at it, even when some rounds and some days didn’t go so well.
Today, the line separating the wannabes form the most successful was quite thin. But that’s because every gamer in the arena was a top talent or nearly so, as capable to win as the next person. That wasn’t always the case, of course. On non-tournament days, the arena was just as likely to see gaming professional honing their skills as it was to see friends out for a bit of fun laying a little bit of smack down on each other.
While professional gamers trended on the young side—his teammate Zach Reynolds, who was retiring after this tournament, was considered a grizzled veteran at 29—Tomas knew that half of all esports fans and players in the US were between the ages of 21 and 35, with an additional 28 percent over 35!
Clearly, this wasn’t just a sport or a pastime for kids. Many of the early adopters who had grown up playing Oregon Trail, Tomb Raider, and who had cut their teeth on classics like Donkey Kong, Centipede, and Space Invaders, were still partaking of the newer games. Many were married couples, and still others would come in with their kids to play as a family unit.
“The family that re-spawns together, stays together,” Tomas laughed as he settled down next to his teammates in front of a row of large monitors. He was hoping to limber up for an hour or so before the requisite, late morning fan meet-and-greets right before tourney go time.
His team might have consisted of all guys, but he knew quite a few teams had at least one women on board—and some teams were even made up of all females. Tomas was okay with that. It made coming to the gaming center and competing more fun. Maybe, he hoped, he might find the perfect match here one day—either in the stands watching him play or, better yet, plugged in and going toe-to-toe with him in some virtual world of wonder.
Someday too, he hoped, maybe even his Mom and Dad, who were still reserving their right to disapprove of his chosen profession, would come to cheer him on. Married, with kids, and working full-time—they would fit right in with the usual arena crowd.