Esports has rapidly ascended from a niche pastime to a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Today, millions of people across the globe tune in to watch their favorite players and teams compete in various competitive games such as League of Legends and Overwatch.
But such success is only possible with the support of local esports communities. In Pennsylvania, a mix of grassroots enthusiasm and institutional support has contributed to esports’ explosive growth.
What’s even more helpful is that it’s only a matter of time before PA sportsbooks start accepting wagers for esports tournaments. Imagine placing a bet before watching a thrilling round in Overwatch – your excitement and involvement will surely go through the roof.
While we wait for Pennsylvania to include esports in betting, let’s briefly examine how the esports scene started and flourished in the state.
The Beginning of Esports in Pennsylvania
Like any other, the esports scene in Pennsylvania started at the LAN parties we all know and love. These small local tournaments, often organized by passionate community members, were the scene’s lifeblood. These events doubled as social gatherings at which competitors and enthusiasts played and had fun.
As years went by, cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh witnessed massive growth in these events. It even reached the point where local businesses started sponsoring prizes and providing venues, believing today’s amateur player could be tomorrow’s superstar.
The Rise of Collegiate Esports
It didn’t take long for Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to recognize the potential of esports. Schools such as Penn State and Harrisburg University have not only established competitive esports teams but they’ve also invested in state-of-the-art gaming arenas to host events. Harrisburg University has even won national accolades for its successful esports program.
These collegiate programs provide students with more than just an opportunity to play games at a competitive level. They also offer scholarships and pathways to industry careers in game design, marketing or event management.
The Development of Professional Teams and Arenas
Pennsylvania’s commitment to esports isn’t limited to the amateur and collegiate levels. Philadelphia, for instance, was the home of Philadelphia Fusion before it moved to Seoul, Korea, due to the pandemic. Fusion competed professionally in the Overwatch League while still in the state.
The state has also witnessed significant investment in professional esports arenas. The Fusion Arena, although now operating as a multi-use facility instead of a dedicated esports arena, was a $50 million project. Despite the turn of events surrounding Philadelphia Fusion, the commitment to build such an arena is testament to the belief in the growth of esports.
Overall Economic Impact of Esports
With arenas, teams and university programs appearing, there’s no doubt that Pennsylvania is reaping the economic benefits. Esports events undoubtedly attract thousands of attendees, generating revenue for local businesses such as hotels and restaurants. The state also benefits from jobs such as roles in broadcasting, event management and more, created directly and indirectly by the industry.
The Rise of High School Esports
As the years go by and esports continues to be a runaway success, high schools all over Pennsylvania can no longer ignore it. Currently, 27 high school esports teams in Pennsylvania compete in games such as Valorant and Rocket League. And thanks to the state’s love of Rocket League, high school teams from Pennsylvania always top the rankings whenever such a tournament occurs.
Esports Bars, Cafes and Training Facilities
With the rise of esports comes the demand for venues where fans can gather and serious esports athletes can hone their skills. Training facilities typically have the latest hardware and a dedicated coaching staff to help the teams develop strategies. Meanwhile, esports bars and cafes offer a space for fans to come together, play video games and watch live broadcasts.
And to further prove the state’s dedication to esports, the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department installed an esports room at the Christy Recreation Center in September 2021. Not only does the room allow everyone to play and grow but it also serves as a safe and productive destination for teenagers and young adults.
The Future of Esports in Pennsylvania
While there’s a lot of excitement around esports in the state, there are also challenges to be overcome. One is the sustainability of investments and ensuring that teams feel safe enough to stay and develop their teams within the state. And then there’s the issue of creating an inclusive culture, especially for female gamers and participants from diverse backgrounds.
As such, the state’s esports journey still has room to grow. From the state’s community-building initiatives to a comprehensive approach in embracing the phenomenon, Pennsylvania serves as a model for other states to nurture a local esports scene.