Jada Soloman and Alfred Narin
The phenomenon known as Esports is changing what it means to be an athlete.
Also known as competitive gaming, Esports pits video gamers against each other
during live streamed events, which are watched by millions of fans around the
world. Popular Esports games include Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike,
Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL.
Jonathan McRae, the president of the University of North Florida (UNF) Esports club
says he’s been a gamer since he was 5 years old. But he really became more
interested in competitive gaming when the game Halo came out.
“There was a convention in Orlando that had a Halo tournament. There were people
from everywhere just coming to play this one game and I thought, ‘Wow. This is
McRae also admired the competitive aspect of Esports. “It brings out that
competitive nature for those people who like to compete. Some people play for fun,
but others play to win.”
There is also a lucrative side to this new sports venture. Some tournaments offer
millions of dollars in prize money, which is typically split between the players on the
winning teams. Top gamers can easily earn seven figures in a year.
“You can make a living off of just being a professional video gamer,” said McRae.
“They make about $200,000 a month if they’re top streamers. Millions of dollars a
year! It’s insane that they play video games for a living.”
Despite the competitive side and financial aspect of Esports, gamers have formed a
tight-knit community. For many, gaming is a way to escape and have fun.
Courtney Morano, a member of UNF’s club, said she joined to make friends and to be
a part of something.
“Esports has giving me a community and friends I thought I would never have. Last
year before this club was created I was very anxious to leave my dorm unless I had
like an actual reason to leave like for classes. But this club gave me a reason to
branch out and give people a chance and find a community that suits me.”
Over the last year, this local community was tested. In August 2018 a mass shooting
took place at the GLHF Game Bar in downtown Jacksonville. Two people were killed
and 11 others wounded after a competitor went on a shooting rampage before turning the gun on himself. For many, it solidified a long-held view that video games
promote violence, but McRae saw it as an opportunity to bring the gaming
“It did put a tainted view on the Esports scene. People have a jaded view of gamers
taking video games too seriously, but I think that was just an isolated incident. But I
do think the community as a whole is supportive enough that something like this
can bring the community closer together and strengthen it.”
McRae’s goal for the Esports club is to expand it and to start holding tournaments at
UNF. “We just want to just build a community. Right now we have 250 plus students
involved and we want to eventually start holding events and tournaments here at
UNF to bring outside people into our campus. We want to spread the love of UNF
and the love of Esports.”