“Esports is gaming,” Brett Lautenbach tells anyone who’s unfamiliar with the subject. Lautenbach is president of NRG, a company that fields teams in game-specific leagues.
Organized, competitive video gaming has been around online since the late ’90s, but in case you blinked, it has grown into a billion-dollar industry. Think NFL and NBA teams with their own esports entries and entertainment and sports giants such as Jennifer Lopez and Shaquille O’Neal as investors. The category has the equivalent of its own broadcast network: the Twitch streaming platform. And industry analysts at Newzoo predicted last year that 380 million people around the world would watch esports and that nearly half of those could be categorized as frequent viewers.
Now, imagine those millions are not only watching your every move, but they’re also listening to every command and split-second strategic decision between you and your teammates. They’re your peers, with a median age of 25, according to research firm Nielsen’s esports insights.
You’re beginning to get the picture: Esports athletes are not just kids playing in their bedrooms or basements. With the stakes for these players arguably as high as professional (conventional) athletes, NRG had the foresight to partner with 24 Hour Fitness in support of players’ health. 24Life asked Lautenbach and two of NRG’s star players on San Francisco Shock, a team in the Overwatch League, for more insight into a new kind of competition and what it takes to be a new kind of athlete.