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Why in the midst of social, economic and global disruption, esports proves it is only getting stronger!

Since COVID-19 took over our lives, there have been constant complaints on social media about how much of a chore social distancing can be. Students now have to take online classes, businesses are mandating that employees work from home, and everyone is forced to remain indoors as much as humanly possible. However, there have been very few complaints from all the gamers out there, (aside from not having toilet paper, of course), and that is because gamers are simply made to thrive in an online world. As proud introverts, we already practice social distancing, and prefer to think of quarantine as prime time for gaming. 

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Esports have an incredible upper hand with everyone homebound, especially considering that all traditional sports are cancelled. Fans across the world are craving any sort of competitive content they can get. Because, let’s be real, why else would anyone be watching stone skipping on ESPN2 right now? However, despite the world in a mass shutdown, esports remain more or less the same. Although watch parties and LAN events (or in-person tournaments) were put on hold, regular online programming continues as expected.

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In contrast to traditional sports, esports have always been consumed online, meaning that LAN events, although incredible to attend, are not necessary for esports’ survival. So while traditional sport athletes cannot continue fueling their sport scene without a live audience in the stadium, streamers’ popularity has actually been rising, showing major increases in viewership over the past couple of months. That’s only the beginning, because as esports gain momentum, there is no slowing down even after the pandemic subsides.

Major sports networks are making deals to stream esports right now, capitalizing on a well-developed, online sports scene that millions already watch and enjoy. With athletes’ careers paused mid-season, cross promotion is the key to convert traditional sports fans into esports fans. The world will never forget when Ninja set a new Twitch viewership record by playing Fortnite with Drake, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Travis Scott. This was a moment in esports history that showed just how universal esports really are, and the reactions to their stream proved you didn’t have to know anything about the game to enjoy the commentary.

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Pro athletes are bridging the gap between traditional sports and esports, increasing both fan bases along the way. A true win, W.  NASCAR, for example, announced all cancelled races would be replaced with esports matches featuring pro drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch. Those matches were televised on FOX Sports’ FS1 in an effort to offer “competitive and entertaining racing to our viewers as we all work through these challenging times together,” said Brad Zager, Executive Producer for FOX Sports.

Just like rap music fans didn’t need to know how to play Fortnite to enjoy Ninja’s stream, sports fans just need the right connection to become an esports fan. For example, basketball fans that missed out on March Madness are tuning into NBA 2K League tournaments. Soccer fans, whose season barely even started before it was taken away, would enjoy something like the Rocket League Spring Series, the perfect tournament for esports newbies on Twitch. The same goes for other esports leagues like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and League of Legends, especially if the broadcast used on-screen graphics or had informative castors to explain the game a bit more as fans cross over.

Esports is on the rise, and so are the Charlotte Phoenix. Now that we are all living the #QuarantineLife, the Phoenix are here to help, whether you’re a die-hard esports fan or a traditional sports fan looking for some new content. We are increasing streaming times to support our content creators and giving those who live in different time zones the ability to tune in. If you’re looking for some at-home entertainment, please check out the Twitch streams of our Rocket League pro players: Karma, Shadow, and WondaMike.

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In true Phoenix nature, our Charlotte team is finding a way to thrive despite the constant disruptions taking place around the world. We will continue to support the Y-TAC program, as well as Charlotte Mecklenburg schools and STEM programs during these trying times. Due to COVID-19, Y-TAC accelerated their program allowing students the chance to be paid for their apprenticeship. Learn more about our involvement with STEM programs such as Y-TAC, Charlotte’s first Youth Technology Apprenticeship Camp, on our website.

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The Charlotte Phoenix just played in the Open Qualifiers for the Rocket League Spring Series on April 21-22, making it from over 850 teams down to the top 8. The Main Event of the Spring Series was held on April 25-26 on Twitch, with the final match played live on ESPN2. ESPN hired Landon Donovan, a former professional soccer player and current manager for the San Diego Loyal, to join the Rocket League casters for this event. This brought another element to the broadcast because he helped explain every single Rocket League reference in terms of another sport, making this extremely easy to watch for traditional sports fans that have never watched esports in their lives.

Because esports broadcasts shown on major networks or streamed online are so easy to follow right now, we encourage you to “bring a friend” to watch these series, (and by bring a friend, we mean responsibly hang out via FaceTime or Zoom). Whether you bring your duos partner or a friend or family member that has never watched esports before, please share your experience with us on Twitter @CLTPhoenixGG.

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To give fans more opportunities to play, the Phoenix will be hosting various tournaments open to anyone who joins our Discord server and signs up in the appropriate channels. We just held a 5v5 tournament for the new game VALORANT on April 24-26, hosted by CLT Esports. Since VALORANT is a brand new game, this kind of tournament is a great opportunity to compete in a game while everyone is close to the same experience level. We plan to hold more events like this in the future, encouraging all to participate. We will also continue to host Rocket League tournaments every Sunday, (that are free to enter!), and we hope to see both familiar and new fans there each week. To view the official rules and learn more about these tournaments, check out the different tournament channels within our Discord.

Now is the time to rise up, gamers. Show traditional sports fans that esports can be just as suspenseful, nerve-wracking, and thrilling, even from home. Show them it’s easy to watch and not intimidating to learn, because now more than ever, people need a fun, interactive outlet. Many people struggling with anxiety at this time want to distract themselves, and unfortunately a lot of those distractions are suspended or cancelled. Embrace your inner gamer: stream a new channel or game on Twitch (like VALORANT!), message your friends on Discord, buy a board game for the fam, and be the very best Pokémon trainer like no one ever was, (from your couch).

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