In the last five years, the realm of eSports has transformed the world of gaming. Historically, gamers competed in organized tournaments. One of the first was the 1997 Quake competition, which had 2,000 entrants.
Many consider this to be the first eSports tournament, where remote players gathered together to crown a champion.
The move online changed the world of video gaming in the early 2000s. With stronger internet connectivity, players could compete against one another in console-hosted groups for multiplayer games. Then came Twitch and Steam, which allowed fans to watch multiplayer games from their favorite players and store games in a cloud-based library.
Early on, Major League Gaming looked to create teams and international gaming standards to host international competitions. Today, MLG remains the most prominent organizer of esports tournaments, which is one of the quickest-growing industries in terms of entertainment. According to Statista, the global market for esports is valued at over $1 billion as of this year.
Unsurprisingly, prize pools in major tournaments reflect this boom. At the moment, DOTA 2 is one of the most competitive eSports games to compete in. Back in 2019, DOTA 2 gamers competed for $25.5 million in winnings, while one League of Legends team took home $2.41 million from a single tournament the same year.
Though most pros tend to be concentrated in the US, Canada, China, and Korea, eSports athletes are popping up all over the globe thanks to remote tournaments. Those with a strong internet connection can log on and sign up for a competition; winners of smaller contests often see a modest prize along with future invitations to other competitions.
Two of the most prominent gamers in Africa (outside of Egypt and South Africa) are Kenyan gamers known as Queen Arrow and The Beast. They aren’t competing in first-person shooters or battle arenas. Instead, both prefer old-school fighting games.
Queen Arrow Aiming True
Sylvia Gathoni is one of East Africa’s strongest eSports gamers. Her chosen field is Tekken 7, one of the most popular fighting games with a storied history in the industry. Last year, at age 22, she was ranked 13th overall in Kenya’s Tekken sector.
When she isn’t practicing juggles and extended air combos, Gathoni attends law school. Her time in the gaming sector has influenced what she hopes to accomplish in terms of laws. First and foremost, she’d like to tackle sexism related to gaming.
Though this might not lead Queen Arrow to any concrete legislative changes, she hopes that her place as a successful lawyer and female gamer will help transform stereotypes and foster the gaming spirit in other women.
But there’s something else Gathoni wants to focus on at the intersection of gaming and law: microtransactions. Microtransactions are options within games when players can pay a small amount of money to purchase in-game features or items. As a lawmaker, Gathoni would limit the amount of these transactions.
Brian Diang’a chose a life of gaming to keep himself off the streets in Kibera, one of Kenya’s most extensive slums. For him, playing Mortal Kombat was about escaping reality and finding his own true purpose in life.
Unlike Queen Arrow, the Beast isn’t pursuing law or another traditional career path. Instead, he competes in Mortal Kombat competitions to keep developing his professional career as an eSports gamer. But that doesn’t mean he spends all his time in front of a monitor.
Diang’a has started paying his earnings forward. He created gaming dens like those he grew up playing in for locals in Kibera. He works with Pro Series Gaming to host mobile, PC, and console tournaments to connect developing gamers to competitions where they could earn money and gain notoriety in the industry.
At the moment, Diang’a has an Instagram account with over 8,000 followers, which he uses to connect with prospective gamers. He’s also been featured in a variety of interviews, where he advocates gaming for its opportunities, discipline, and the freedom it provides through imaginative adventures. There’s no doubt that The Beast is putting Kenya on the esports map.