Last year, compLexity was bought by Dallas Cowboys football boss Jerry Jones, who’s been joined by traditional sports moguls like Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots football dynasty, who’s invested in a league for the video game Overwatch. Team compLexity, which makes its money from corporate sponsors and its cut of tournament winnings, provides plenty of support. SHAHZEB KHAN: We have got a personal fitness sports psychology coach. He helps us with pretty much everything we need, in terms of like even teaching some of the players how to cook, getting advice on like fixing your posture. PAUL SOLMAN: Hey, posture is key, if you sit as much as these guys do, practicing eight to 10 hours a day. But, look, says the entrepreneur who founded and then sold the compLexity team, Jason Lake: JASON LAKE, Founder, compLexity Gaming: The beautiful thing about e-sports and about gaming is, you don’t have to be 6’3” and 220 to have a shot.
You don’t have to be 6’9” to dunk. Anybody can come, male, female, any race, any gender. As long as you have some basic physical functionality, it’s a level playing field. PAUL SOLMAN: There is one physical hazard, carpal tunnel syndrome. Daniel Rodriguez, AKA ChuDat: DANIEL RODRIGUEZ, ChuDat: If I play for about one or two hours, my fingers are pretty much — they just start to hurt. PAUL SOLMAN: ChuDat is a star at Super Smash Bros. Melee, a mostly gun-free mano-a-mano affair released way back in 2001, but ChuDat’s e-sport was shelved for a sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and both he and the game appeared to be obsolete. DANIEL RODRIGUEZ: I tried picking up the game. I tried playing. I was no good at it. So I had to kind of like drop Smash and I had to focus on like my real life, so I got a job and then I went back to school. PAUL SOLMAN: Luckily, a 2013 nostalgia documentary revived Melee and Rodriguez’s career, for the time being.
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ: People think that this game will dry up and it will just like completely disappear. PAUL SOLMAN: Well, what do you do after that? DANIEL RODRIGUEZ: I got to go back to school and get a job. PAUL SOLMAN: So, unlike baseball or golf, video games go, video games come, and sometimes quickly. The video game of the moment, soon to become a pro e-sport with a league of its own, Fortnite, a shoot-em-up featuring a battle royal, 100 players drifting down to an island and then sniping away to emerge as sole survivor. With promised tournament prizes of $100 million next year, Fortnite threatens to become the biggest e-sport of them all and was plastered on screens throughout DreamHack. Released less than a year ago, the game already has 50 million players, in part because it’s free, while a typical video game costs $50 to $60. So how can it offer $100 million in prizes?