Sport

ESports: Global phenomenon of 148 million enthusiasts

By Henry Young, CNN

Updated 1114 GMT (1914 HKT) May 31, 2016
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Welcome to the world of eSports ... PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Though alien to many of us, competitive gaming is a worldwide phenomenon. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
Top video-gamers are household names and many millions more tune in to watch bouts via online streaming network Twitch. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
In Korea, a "PC Bang" -- where young gamers gather to play and "train" -- can be located on almost every block. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
The 2015 "Call of Duty" European Championships were held at London's Royal Opera House. Rob Stothard/Getty Images
Many fans dress up in outlandish costumes for eSports events. Some wear the replica shirts of their favorite team, just as in conventional sports. G2 Sports founder Carlos "ocelote" Rodriguez tells CNN: "Ten years from now, people will be wearing G2 eSports jerseys." LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
It's not just boys fueling eSports' inexorable rise. In the U.S., 28% of so-called "Esports enthusiasts" -- players who watch multiple times per month -- are female. Here, members of an all-female computer gaming team, "QWER," compete in the "Ladies Battle" League of Legends competition in Seoul in 2016. ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
Just over half of male enthusiasts are aged between 21-30 -- curiously enough, the ages a sportsman is at his peak. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional footballer player, that was my big goal in life," pro gamer Olof "Olofmeister" Kajbjer tells CNN.
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As computers become ever more prevalent, eSports becomes arguably the world's first intercontinental sport. A kid in the Maldives can initiate a game against a 40-year-old in the snow-capped Russian mountains in a matter of seconds. Rob Stothard/Getty Images
And it's not just games like "Counterstrike," "Starcraft" and "League of Legends" that are taking off. In a curious twist, professional football teams have begun signing pro FIFA gamers. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Tickets often sell out in a matter of minutes for eSport events. The chants of the gathered crowds are not dissimilar to those heard in football stadiums. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
But it's the online audience that's making the difference: this year's "League of Legends" championship drew nearly 30 million viewers, in line with the combined viewership of the 2014 MLB and NBA finals. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
"When you look at the state of the video games today and how much more processing power they have now compared to when I was playing video games, it really makes a massive difference," Formula E's ex-F1 driver Bruno Senna tells CNN. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Above, eSports players compete in a 2007 Seoul tournament. Fast forward a decade and one U.S. college -- Robert Morris University -- even gives scholarships to video game players, forming the nation's first varsity eSports squad. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
The game is changing. Are eSports here to stay? Have your say on CNN Sport's Facebook page. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images