When talking about any skill-based competition in life, like sports, board games, or business, one thing is certain: there is always a pyramid of talent. Esports and video games are no different. Whether we are talking about League of Legends or Kirby’s Epic Yarn, there will always be casual players, competitive players, and elite players. Many people play games to pass time or to escape the hardships of reality, however a handful of people choose to play games for the thrill of competition. Esports leagues have been an exponentially growing entertainment industry that are beginning to look more like professional sports leagues like the NBA or NFL than just some silly gaming tournaments. Esports players are getting paid huge amounts of money which has sparked a secondary industry: the business side of esports. These leagues have created new job opportunities to make the leagues more professional with coaches, referees, hosts, journalists, event managers, agents, sponsors, and more. But while the leagues get more and more professional, the methods of discovering talented players still seems to be in its primitive stages. Players have mastered their crafts and feel as though they could compete with the top players in the world, but unfortunately, it is very hard for them to be discovered unless they create an online persona through methods like content creation or streaming. However, there have been efforts made to bridge the gap between these unrecognized talents and the big leagues. Events like online qualifiers through online matchmaking have become more and more popular. The major esports leagues could be heading in the right direction to allow competitive gamers live out their dreams.
NBA 2K is an incredibly popular basketball video game, often played on consoles like PS4 or Xbox, and has made the journey to the major leagues more transparent and seemingly more achievable. The 2K League is one of the only professional leagues in the world that does a draft similar to traditional sports. 2K made an announcement that anyone could be eligible for the 2K League draft if they complete the following: Win at least 50 online games in The Rec, maintain a 50%-win rate, complete an online application, and be at least 18 years old. These requirements are reasonable, but also separate the casual players from the competitive players. Assuming each game is around 30 minutes long, players would have to play AT LEAST 25 hours if they won all 50 of their games. After the requirements are satisfied by the player, they would be sent to the NBA 2K League Combine. The best players from the qualifier and the Combine become eligible for the 2K League Draft. This is just evaluation process for one game, but many other games have begun to give fair chances to unrecognized competitive players. Most games have ranked systems and the top ranks will be given more credibility to talent scouts. Being a Grand Master in Rocket League gives you a golden title that shows that you are, in fact, a Grand Master. From there, they could be invited to GameBattle teams where they compete in a sort of semi-professional league. GameBattles are an online league that anyone can participate in and can act as the next level for competitive players. Leagues like these are players steppingstone to being found by talent scouts.
While major games and esports leagues are taking steps in the right direction in finding unrecognized talents in the community, a lot more has to be done. Traditional sports teams often have designated scouts that work entirely in finding unrecognized athletes. Athletes put themselves out there by contacting coaches and posting highlight videos of their best plays on easy-to-use platforms like HUDL. I believe a platform like this could be incredibly useful for the gaming community. eFuse is a website that just opened its beta testing site and promotes itself as a professional hub for esports and video games. From my understanding of the site’s vision, it seems like a sort of HUDL/LinkedIn/Twitter fusion for casual and completive gamers. Players can use the site in one of two ways: to chat about video games and relax in the “Lounge” with their peers, or to post highlights and game statistics in hopes of getting recognized and picked up by esports teams or other competitive players. eFuse is a brilliant platform that connects players from all games and competitive backgrounds, and in time, could prove to be the future of discovering unrecognized talents in the gaming community.
Esports leagues and third-party platforms are taking the necessary steps to close the gap between competitive players and their dreams. As more people begin to see the massive growth in video games and esports entertainment, more transparent and innovative methods of discovering talent will be established. Improvements and increasing popularity in websites like eFuse and GameBattles will aid the fight. Soon enough, talent discovery in the realm of esports will be as important and relevant as traditional athletic scouting.