Super team’s aren’t just relegated to the NBA. The ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017 champions have undoubtedly proven that. FaZe Clan–an expensive team, constructed of individual all-star CS players, came back from what seemed like an insurmountable lead in the first frame of competition to sweep rival Astralis 2-0, to remain the top Counter-Strike team in the land.
After pulling off an epic win in front of a live studio audience, FaZe Clan’s Finn “Karrigan” Andersen–who could be considered the Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving of esports–said, “we knew we could come back [after being down during the first map]. I have played on Astralis, so I know how they handle certain situations.” Such compelling stories are a big part of why esports are gaining in popularity even among non-gamers.
Broadcast on TBS, the competition likely marked the first time watching esports for many across America. If you watched, you may have realized that many of these players’ stories aren’t dissimilar to your favorite NBA, NFL or MLB athlete.
“I think a lot of people have misconceptions about video games as sport or eSports,” said Christina Alejandre, Turner Sports’ VP & General Manager of esports. “To make people aware that these are real people practicing, they’re on teams, they’re actual athletes — to make them understand that and understand the kind of human element that goes into it is really important to us and making people care about certain players or certain teams really helps draw them in and then makes them want to learn more about the game or learn more about the sport.”
Take Jake Yip, better known by his gamertag, Stewie2K, for example. The 19-year-old whose gamertag is an homage to Family Guy has only been playing competitively for a year-and-a-half.
“The first time that I started experiencing these things were from the outside in like many of you as well,” described Yip. “I would see how these professional players do. They travel around being sponsored so they don’t have to pay for flights or they don’t have to pay for food and it’s pretty much free travel and just living a little kids’ dream playing video games for a living and seeing these prize pools go up to millions, thousands.”
However, with every Jake Yip success story, there is a story of hardship as well.
“Even dudes in their early 20”s, they’re ducking out of college, they’re saying I need to be here now to take advantage of these opportunities,” said ELEAGUE host, Richard Lewis. “It’s a hard sell for a lot of parents, a lot of families come from different backgrounds, there’s different expectations. I know of players who’ve literally been completely ostracized by their parents like if you do this we will never speak to you again, you are really letting us down.’”
Competing with a controller in your hands often comes with just as much sacrifice as it does on the court or diamond. Not only do competitors have to worry about financials, they also must pay attention to how well they mesh with their teammates.
Yip compared it to the Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard saga in Los Angeles. A powerful 1-2 punch on paper didn’t equate to much in the win column. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there no matter the talent level. “Sometimes you don’t have the right players that mesh well and it’s going to take a longer process to progress.”
These gamers have stories beyond firing up a console and practicing for hours on end — that’s what a network like TBS is trying to show. Rarely in life does a full commitment to something not entail a level of sacrifice. esports is no exception to this rule and they’ve got the stories to prove it.
The next ELEAGUE Injustice 2 World Championship will determine its final two competitors in the Last Chance Qualifier, with live coverage beginning Saturday, Oct. 21, at Noon ET on Twitch.