With competitive gaming on the rise and millions in prize money up for grabs around the world, what's the real difference between regular athletes and e-Athletes?
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Infographics Show- today we're taking a look at the training, competitions, and lifestyle of E-athletes and regular athletes to see just how similar or not the two are.
Training is a major part of any competitive endeavor- while you can be blessed with natural talent, that talent must be honed to perfection and your body and mind prepared for maximum efficiency.
Regular athletes are no strangers to tough and intense training regimens.
NFL players typically spend 45 minutes to an hour with weightlifting, another hour in aerobic exercise, and then three and a half to four hours of actual practice on the field during the off season.
As a new season approaches, the time spent physically practicing on the field is cut dramatically in order to reduce the risk of injury during practice, but players still spend hours going over no-contact drills and pouring over video tape of their past games to study flaws in their technique, or tapes of their opponent's games to study flaws in their opponent's technique.
NBA players follow a similar training schedule, with one and a half to up to three hours of court practice followed by an hour and a half to two hours of physical exercise.
On average, an NBA or NFL player will train for about 6-8 hours a day, 4-5 days a week.
How does this compare to e-athletes?
Robert Morris University Illinois was the first university to create a varsity eSport's team in America.
Currently they field teams that play League of Legends, Hearthstone, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Heroes of the Storm, and Smash Brothers in national and international tournaments around the world.
Their players follow a strict training regimen that includes 7 hours of play time every single week day from 2 to 9pm.
Given the pressures of competitive gaming, players will often play for hours during their weekends as well, sometimes getting no breaks in their training for weeks at a time.
For professional players out of school the training can be even more intense.
OpTic Gaming, one of the world's best esports teams based out of the Chicago area, puts its players through a brutal and strenuous regimen that includes both actual play time and social media outreach- critical to the success of any e-athlete.
Players will often wake up at 10 am and begin playing for enough hours to record one or two good matches to upload to their youtube channels.
After editing and uploading, players then engage their live stream and begin playing up to 12 hours a day in front of live audiences, putting even more pressure on what's supposed to be just practice.
Not only do e-athletes dedicate more of their life to their sport, but their training and competitions are even more physically demanding than most professional athletes.
In 2016 a study by the German Sports University found that e-athletes produce cortisol - a stress hormone- in their bodies equivalent to a race car driver, and they achieved heart rates as high as 160 to 180 beats a minute, equivalent to running a marathon.
According to the German study this is because e-athletes are not only executing extremely rapid eye, hand and arm movements, but engaging multiple portions of their brain simultaneously and conducting high level critical thinking as they formulate tactics or respond to their opponent's moves.
They are engaging their brains in ways that very few physical sports can compare to.
While we're all familiar with the World Cup, the Superbowl, and the Olympics - how do e-sport competitions compare to traditional sports?
In 2017 more than 111 million people watched the Super Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events on television.
However, as impressive a figure as that may be, technology consulting firm Activate estimates that by 2020 70 million people will watch an esports final - more than the viewership for any American sports final except the NFL.
Esports will also constitute 3 billion hours of air time, or 10% of all sports viewing.
Yet these trends are only poised to continue growing, as today men ages 18-25 watch 1.95 hours of eSports versus only 1.67 hours of regular sports a day.
In another ten to twenty years, most media experts predict that eSports will grow to trump regular sports, eventually toppling even the Super Bowl itself.
What about money and lifestyle?
We're all used to seeing professional athletes flashing their hard-earned wealth and buying expensive and ridiculously impractical things with all that money, so how do e-athletes compare?
While e-athletes are starting to receive major sponsorship attention, the financial gap between an e-athlete and a conventional athlete is still pretty wide.
Currently the NBA has an average salary of 6.2 million dollars- highest of all American sports- with its top earner LeBron James earning $31 million for the 2016-2017 season.
The NFL by comparison has one of the lowest average salaries of conventional sports aside from soccer, with $2.1 million average salary, and Drew Brees earning $31.25 million in 2016.
For e-Athletes a standard salary can be quite rare, with only the top competitive teams in the world actually paying their players a fixed salary - North American based team Ember pays its players between $57,500 and $65,000 a year, with up to $27,000 in performance and signing bonuses.
Riot Games- the developers of League of Legends, one of the most popular eSports games in the world- pays players in its Championship Series a base salary of roughly $12,500 for three month's worth of work.
Instead of salary though, most professional e-Athletes have costs of living covered by their teams, and earn money off monetized YouTube channels and rarely, sponsorship deals from vendors.
The bulk of an e-Athlete's income comes from cash prices earned in competitions, with some of the top prices fetching anywhere between 3 to 9 million dollars in prize money.
Unlike traditional athletes however e-Athletes must split this money between each member of their team, typically lowering their own take to well under a million dollars.
In the end it turns out that professional e-Athletes can work harder and tax their bodies and mind more than nearly any conventional athlete, yet earn less.
With a professional lifespan of one to two years, they can expect to last even less than an NFL player who typically lasts 3.1 years - all while paying a much higher price in time invested and physical/mental toll taken on their body. . . and expecting to go home far poorer than any conventional athlete with few if any post -career sponsorship deals or career paths to take other than the occasional coaching gig.
Yet due to their trans-cultural nature, eSports is set to become an even bigger phenomenon than any conventional sport, and arguably it has already surpassed many other physical sports in popularity and viewership.
With trends continuing as they are and eSports growing in popularity, it may be time to redefine what and who we consider an athlete, and perhaps start treating them- and paying them- as such.