eSports Players Enjoy Legitimacy


BURBANK, Calif. — It’s July 13, the day before eight teams of four players begin taking part in the Call of Duty World League Stage 2 Finals, with a shot at the championship later this year. And that means pizza and go-kart racing.

Most of the players aren’t old enough to drink. Many don’t even look old enough to shave. And they laugh and drive around the Racer’s Edge Indoor Karting track much the way you’d expect really young guys to do. You wouldn’t guess they were about to compete for a prize pool of $250,000.

“My mom was a little iffy about it at first,” laughed Tommy “Zooma” Paparato, a 20-year-old New Jersey resident who’s played Call of Duty since the first iterations of the game. He’s a member of the “FaZe Clan,” which has won two world championships, and is among the more well-known of the teams out there. “[Parents] see the opportunity, and they’re opinions change a bit,” he said.

“Show them the people holding up the prize money and the checks,” Paparato added. “They may still not understand it, but they see it’s serious.”

By 2018, eSports revenue is expected to hit almost $800 million, up from $194 million in 2014, according to data from Twitch, and everyone from ESPN to Turner Broadcasting System has dedicated broadcast time and shows to eSports, recognizing its popularity (and the money to be made).

The Call of Duty World League, run by Activision, has teams compete in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, with the events streamed live online, as well as on the PlayStation 4. In March, Activision launched a Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Live Event Viewer on the PS4, allowing Black Ops 3 players to watch matches from within the game, along with developer-hosted live streams, Game with Devs sessions and more.

“What’s more, fans can also learn more about the Call of Duty World League Challenge Division, which gives players a chance to compete against other hopefuls in online and regional events and even an opportunity to earn a spot at the Call of Duty Championship this fall,” Scott Lowe, communications manager for Activision, wrote.

Adam “Assault” Garcia, a 20-year-old Chicago resident who’s a member of one of the newer squads, Cloud 9, said the new legitimacy of eSports has been a long time coming. “Older people don’t understand, and you can’t get them to,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be on SportsCenter soon enough. … They’ll stop asking what I plan on doing after [competitive gaming].”

Maxxie Ebran, a 23-year-old from Normandy, France — who plays in the international bracket of Call of Duty World League — said the recent growth of eSports has been happening all over the world. And whether it’s North American or Europe, parents are the same, apparently.

“I had a deal with my mom: I get my degree first, and then I could do what I want,” he said. Right after graduating, he was recruited by a French eSports organization, and he hasn’t looked back. “She’s pretty happy. She gets to see me on TV. And my passion became my job.”