Boston hopes to become leader in booming esports industry

Paying money to watch others play video games - it's no joke. Esports is a growing industry, and local teams and colleges are hoping to cash in on the fad.

“Time to turn off your video games and do your homework” – it’s something parents tell their kids all the time. But it might not be the best advice, considering that esports is one of the fastest growing entertainment industries today, and many young gamers are getting rich and famous.

Recently, the Agganis Arena at Boston University was packed with 5,000 fans who cheered as professional gamers competed in the E-League Major. Roars erupted as players successfully killed off their competition.

Hundreds lined up to get autographs from members of a Brazilian team. Tyla Decker made the trip from Indiana just to see these young men play video games. “Honestly, like the environment, it’s crazy and awesome and so exciting to be around.”

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More than 1 million people also watched the E-League Major online - which set a record for this type of event.

For some people, it’s hard to believe that this much excitement can be generated just from watching other people play video games.

By 2020, it’s estimated esports will be a $1.5 billion industry in the United States. Globally, it will be $4 billion.

Diego Freitas is a fan from Hyannis who is starting an esports related business  “It’s pretty interesting,”

Freitas said. “Imagine if you had the chance to grow up when basketball was first invented. We are in that stage of the development of competitive video games, it's on that rise.”

Professional sports teams like the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics are now trying to get into the virtual action.

The Green just announced tryouts for a team that will compete in the NBA 2K league.

“We are going to be drafting a team of players who fit a basketball archetype, whether they are a sharp shooting 2 guard, or they are the pass first point guard, or a power forward,” explained Celtics president Rich Gotham.

When asked if these players could say they played for the Celtics, Gotham chucked and said they play for the CLTX and indicated that is an important distinction. “There’s no CLTX banners hanging behind me just yet - but maybe one day!,” he said.

The Celtics are joining 16 other NBA teams in the 2K league. Tip-off is scheduled for May.

Gotham said players on the esports roster will get the same support regular Celtics receive including strengthening, conditioning, and nutritional guidance.

Craig Barry, a senior vice president at Turner Sports, one of the sponsors of the ELeague Match, said the industry is still in its infancy and that he is not surprised major league sports teams are trying to get involved.

“Anytime you have the opportunity to open a door with a new audience and walk through, you want to take advantage of that. It’s as simple as that. If you can create an engagement point for a younger, more active, more engaged audience, to be connected to your brand, then by all means you want to do it,” added Barry.

As the industry grows, it’s going to need people to run it. Emerson College is one of the first schools in the country to offer courses on esports.

Instructor Kevin Mitchell expects the demand for jobs to be high, because companies will need “everything related to the professional sports industry in terms of branding, PR, content creation, storytelling, management, business management.”

That sounds good to students like Emily Quinn who taken the classes. “I think that it is something very special brewing here, and I think that in the future it could be something that's amazing. It is right now.”