One of the beautiful things about esports and gaming is that regardless of your race, age, gender, or athletic ability, everyone can participate.
"Gaming has no age limit because everyone stands to benefit from it," says A.C. Williams in a Tedx Talk he gave in 2019 called More Than Just a High Score: The Impact of Online Gaming Communities. He shares, "at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what game you play; it matters what you learn along the way."
The esports and gaming industry is driven and supported heavily by their communities. The respective fanbases are deeply invested and proud members of their communities. Each game is as distinct as football, rugby, or tennis and has a fan base fiercely loyal to a specific genre or format.
What sets esports apart from any other sport is that you can play with people from all around the world at any given time. Friendships made online are no less valuable than in-person connections.
For some, gaming enables confidence that allows for shared experiences and personal growth. Esports communities allow passionate people to find and express their voice, many for the first time in their lives. Involvement in esport communities can make one feel fulfilled in a way they have never felt before.
These communities are strong because they give people a chance to learn valuable life lessons of patience, passion, and support. These communities were there when cities worldwide were in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Socializing with like-minded, passionate esports enthusiasts was possibly the only social interaction some gamers had. Belonging to an esports community helped ease the feeling of isolation.
In the grander scope of the esports landscape, it's essential to recognize that the communities surrounding their particular video game are connected to every aspect of the esports ecosystem. Without these communities, esports would not be what it is today.
Members of esports communities can interact in multiple ways, whether it's live in-person events, tournaments, and gaming conventions or online social platforms like Reddit and Discord. Playing online in a casual or ranked lobby is another way for members of the gaming community to interact with each other.
Esports communities have a deep and personal meaning to me, as they do for many who found a sense of belonging through them. Discord was the platform that allowed me to connect to the people I met through games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), Rainbow 6:Siege, and Minecraft. The people I met in these communities would become some of my best friends. Through the power of friendship and genuine care, they showed me that I was valued and helped give me the confidence and strength to do one of the hardest things I have ever had to do: escape an abusive marriage. I owe my life to the gaming communities that lifted and supported me during the most challenging time in my life.
Like any sport, esports doesn't come without some downsides to weigh with the positives. A high-pressure environment may cause some top performers to leave the sport, disrupting their morale and team dynamics. A toxic environment online can be similar to a grandstand of parents shouting at athletes during a ball game. Game developers are trying to combat these negative behaviors by providing tools to help players report these behaviors. Monitoring a young gamer's online environment for behaviors such as bullying or harassment is advised.
Esports titles can be seen as gathering points for influencers, casual players, spectators live and online, competitors at every skill level, fans of teams, and fans of individual titles, which all make up the esports gaming community. These communities continue to eliminate negative behaviors that can infiltrate the safe and inclusive spaces they have worked so hard to create, allowing fans to make connections and support a new generation of gamers.