Whilst esports is a new concept to many people around the world including some in the State of Maryland, the idea of competitive gaming has been around for decades. One of the very first tournaments that saw gamers compete took place in the 1970s, and saw the University of Stanford hosting a competition where gamers competed on Spacewar, a retro title that was available to play on the PDP-1.
Back then though, these kinds of tournaments were played for fun, or to get bragging rights over other gamers. There was no sign of a prize pool in sight, unlike today when gamers are winning millions in prize money for bettering their opponents. This is one reason why so many people are now getting involved in esports, because it has in recent years, become a valid career path for people to take.
Much like traditional sports, people spend their lives training and competing competitively across various esport titles. Some of the most popular include the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends (LoL), Overwatch and Rocket League. Each title is completely different from the others, just like how basketball is different from American football, and all have their own respective fans.
In the near future, people in Maryland will also be able to bet on esports too just like with traditional sports. Legislation was passed in April 2021, but the go-live date won’t be until Autumn 2022, as State legislators try to work out all the finer details to ensure that when it does go live, it does so with a safe and secure system in place. Once they work out the kinks, then sportsbooks in Maryland will have lines to bet on esports just like many already do in other states.
Where esports differs though, is that you tend to have the same teams represented in various tournaments. Teams such as Fnatic, Guild Esports and Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) have teams that compete across multiple titles, as opposed to how the Baltimore Ravens compete solely in the NFL.
One of the most upcoming places in the world where Esports is taking off, and where it is being heavily invested in is Maryland. But why? Why is Maryland becoming such a popular destination for esports? Let’s take a look.
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Educating the youth
One of the main reasons that esports has seen tremendous growth in Maryland is because of the education system in the state. In fact, esports has recently become the fastest growing sport in Maryland high schools, as educational institutions try to benefit from the large income that is generated by the industry. Hoping that they can train their students and have them compete to win cash prizes that also reward the schools for their work in helping to create the next generation of esports talent.
Gone are the days where students would go to their guidance counselor who would tell them they can’t possibly have a career in video games. Advising that they are just a fad, and that they should be looking at real careers like becoming doctors and lawyers.
Now, the staff in these same positions are encouraging young people to follow their passions. To follow their dreams into becoming professional gamers, or even take up careers in areas such as game development. Knowing that actually, they can be excellent career paths with great earning potential.
It doesn’t stop at the high school level either. Universities and colleges in Maryland are also getting in on the act, offering students scholarships to represent them competitively. Trying to funnel the top talents through their systems much like they would with potential future NBA and NFL stars. And this is great, because it offers people an education alongside their studies, so when they inevitably decide not to pursue esports any longer, they have something to fall back on.
Helping harness potential
As well as the educational system investing in esports, there are also opportunities outside the likes of high school thanks to the setting up of the Maryland Esports Training Academy (META). Having recognised the increasing potential of esports, META was set up to give people a program that would help train them so they could excel in their preferred esports titles.
They put an entire curriculum together, recruiting in some of the best players from both college and professional level, to help mold up-and-coming talent. And there are levels for everyone too; starting with the basic Academy level for beginners, who can then move on to Elite training, and even begin competing at a Professional level.
Once signed up to the META, students will join their PATHWAYS Program, which will see them meet coaches from around the country, offering them the best training and exposure for their future careers. This will be done by competing in the TeamMETA College Conference, which pits gamers against some of the best individuals and teams from around the country.
Maryland is the place to be
So as you can see, Maryland really is a great place to get involved with esports at the moment. It’s a competitive scene that is being taken very seriously and that is still growing, with so much potential to become bigger and better than it already is. There are so many companies starting up as well based around this scene, from esports bars to companies such as PlayVS who aim to help high schools implement esports programs.
With this kind of investment going into esports in Maryland, it won’t be surprising if before long, we see some of that talent coming through at the top. Potentially winning world championships and going on to dominate their respective esports titles. However, once the success of Maryland does begin to show, you can be sure that other States in the US will begin to follow and try to follow in their footsteps.