Did you know that a lot of people play video games very competitively and some even earn a living doing it? They do, and it's called eSports.
ESports is booming, large corporations are sponsoring players to play in huge tournaments and people are taking home prizes worth up to $500,000 for being the best at their games.
If you want to get involved in eSports but you are not sure what game to play or where to start then read on for my list of the top 8 video games with great eSports communities.
StarCraft 2 is one of the fastest growing eSports in the western world and my game of choice. The community for this game is one of the most positive and involved I have ever seen. Huge companies like Dr. Pepper, Razer, SteelSeries and TteSports have recognized the potential of StarCraft 2 and have started sponsoring players and tournaments.
StarCraft 2, like it's predecessor, is a real-time strategy game that was designed from the ground up by it's developer Blizzard to be a competitive eSport. Everything about StarCraft 2, from the way units fight to the way matches can be watched by spectators live, makes it the perfect eSport.
People are even starting to make a lot of money playing, casting (commentating) and streaming StarCraft 2. Professional player Huk was recently purchased by pro-gaming team Evil Geniuses for a speculated $100,000. Caster and personality Sean Day Plott is also rumoured to make a 6 figure income.
The two largest gatherings of the StarCraft 2 community are TeamLiquid.net and the StarCraft SubReddit /r/StarCraft. There are also a ton of resources available for beginners who want to learn the game such as the Day Daily, LearningSC2.com and /r/starcraft2_class.
StarCraft: Brood War
StarCraft: Broodwar is the game widely held as being the grandfather of eSports. SC:BW is huge in South Korea, and it has been for the past 10 years. Professional players are adored by fans and make massive sums of money. A few western players have even found success in the professional SC:BW scene trying their luck against the Korean players.
StarCraft: Brood War is a real-time strategy game where two players collect resources, build armies and put all of their strategic brilliance and physical ablility into overcoming their opponent. SC:BW is a hard game. Unprepared players are destroyed by the more experienced players in a brutal fashion.
The largest western community for StarCraft: Brood War can be found in the Brood War forums of TeamLiquid.net. If you are interested in finding out more about the game that started it all that is the best place to start.
League of Legends
League of Legends is a game by some of the creators of the popular WarCraft 3 mod (custom map) 'Defence of the Ancients'. The game pits two teams of players against each other in a tug of war style game. Each player controls a hero that they use to kill creatures from the other team (mobs) and eventually the heroes from the other team.
League of Legends has a bit of a learning curve but can be a lot of fun. Better yet, the game is completely free. Download the client and make an account and play as much as you want for nothing. The developers survive off selling 'skins' or outfits for the different heroes. So if you decide you want to support the creators of the game thats the best way to do it.
The best place to get started is over at the League of Legends forums.
Counter Strike Source and Counter Strike 1.6 are iterations of the longest running competitive First Person Shooters. The game has been around for a long time and still has an extremely active and competitive community.
Counter Strike is extremely tactical and requires teamwork and intense focus to play well. The high skill ceiling has produced some intense competitive play.
If you want to find out more about competitive Counter Strike check out the forums at Counter-Strike.com
The latest release of the Fifa series always has a large and active community. Fifa 11 is even currently on the roster for Major League Gaming creating a large competitive following.
Fifa is the official game of Fifa Football (or Soccer, depending on what part of the world you are from) and is one of the most popular sports games on the market. Fifa is typically played on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 but it is also available on PC.
Playhem also runs a website where people can bet on their games, earn money and play in tournaments. If you want to watch some professional Fifa games check out www.majorleaguegaming.com or www.wcg.com.
Street Fighter is a popular series of fast-paced fighting games that has a large competitive community. The game sees two players pick a character and fight it out in a series of bouts. Street Fighter IV is the game in the series that has the largest competitive scene. The professional scene in Japan is particularly large.
For an interesting look into the competitive Street Fighter scene check out pro-players Sirlin's website: www.sirlin.net/sf. For more information on Street Fighter check out the forums at Shoryuken.com
WarCraft 3 is another real-time strategy game from Blizzard, the developers behind the StarCraft series. The game differs from StarCraft in theme, the variety of races to choose from and the use of heroes to compliment your forces.
WarCraft 3 has a pretty active competitive scene and a very active custom map scene where community-made maps are played. The custom map scene is so vibrant that it has even spawned spin-off games like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth.
If you want to find out more about WarCraft 3 check out the forums over at WCReplays.com.
Halo is a series of first person shooters available only on the Xbox and Xbox 360. Halo 3 and, more recently, Halo: Reach have had very active eSports scenes. Halo: Reach has recently replaced Halo 3 on Major League Gaming's roster of games and as such is seeing large growth as an eSport.
Halo typically sees two teams of players duke it out in a set pool of maps. The teams will fight over the best weapons and power ups on each map to secure their teams victory. Halo is very fast paced futuristic combat and is a lot of fun. Beginners can also pick up the game pretty easily but it can take a lot of work to become good enough to play professionally.
The best way to get started with Halo is to simply buy one of the games and start playing, however, you can also check out the forums over at Bungie.net.
I hope that after reading this article you have a few more ideas about what games you would like to get involved with. If you know of any other great eSports games be sure to leave a comment!