PHOENIX (KSAZ) --You may want to think twice before telling your kids they're playing too many video games. as professional game players are making big money, just like a traditional pro sports athlete, and the industry is only getting bigger.
At the Rocket League Championship Series finale, it is a party. The gladiators in this arena choose mousepads and keyboards as their weapons, and the fans pile in to watch some of the best in the world play a video game
"Rocket league is basically soccer with basically three players on the field," said one person. "Instead of a player, you're a car. You can do tricks in the air, you can fly hit the ball from the ceiling, basically soccer on steroids."
"Seeing the pros, the people I've watched, the streamers, the people I watched seeing them in person is what gets me amped up the most, to watch them play because they're the people I watch and enjoy," said another person.
The winning team at the championship tournament in Las Vegas takes home $200,000. The money is part of a season long prize pool of $1 million. The big money and the big tournament isn't just a Rocket League thing. It represents the growth of eSports, a video game industry that is projected to generate around $1 billion this year, with hundreds of millions of people watching people play the games online.
In the past, people would wait in line for autographs from professional athletes, now, people are waiting around for Chicago and Corrupted G to take a selfie with, or sign a controller.
Rocket League might be the most consumable mainstream game. Even if you don't play, you can understand the concept of scoring goals, like in soccer. It is, however, more than that for fans like the Kirkman' and the Sallees. KJ Sallee came to the Vegas tournament from Arkansas, after meeting Grant Kirkman through playing the game online. Both are big fans, and so are mom and dad now.
"I just like how you can do so many things with it. There's no real boundaries with what you can do," said KJ.
"I think it's amazing, it's a whole different arena - sports, football basketball thats what I watched growing up, now it's just a whole new area," said Kendall Sallee.
"I think I'd beat you, I've played for like a year, that's probably my tactical advantage," said Grant.
"It blows my mind that he's meeting someone he met online, and it's like they've been friends forever because of how much they socialize online," said Kate Kirkman.
The competitors are probably making more money than you. Players can make money from the tournament prize pools, they can get paid by their organizations, and they earn sponsorship on their jerseys, just like a football or basketball player might get a shoe deal. Gabe "Corrupted G" Valozzi plays for team Evil Geniuses. He says going pro just sort of happened.
"I started playing the game," said Valozzi. "I realized that I was getting pretty good at it, I got on the leaderboards, was ranked, and once you get higher you get noticed, play tournaments with people, and you make it to the professional league eventually."
For many players, the training schedule is similar to a traditional pro athlete. The game has taken teenagers like Daniel "Torsos" Parsons around the world. He hails from Australia, and, at least at first, his parents didn't really understand.
"They weren't very supportive at first, and they were like, 'I don't know about this travel to play video games,'" said Parsons. "But now, it's like almost a profession, so they're definitely on my side now. It's very exciting. I never expected to be making this much money from video games."
When it was all said and done, North American team Cloud 9 took down two-time defending champions Dignitas from Europe.
The hype around eSports is real, and so is the attitude, so when it comes to eSports. don't be a noob, and level up, as the games are only getting bigger.
Starting this February, the Arizona Interscholastic Association will start sanctioned eSports competitions for schools, and put on a state championship for two games, Rocket League and League of Legends.
Meanwhile, on the collegiate level, more than 30 schools offer eSports scholarships. Arizona State University doesn't yet, but their eSports club team has been successful at nationwide tournaments.