By Megan Valle and Quari Alleyne
In the front room of Waypoint Gaming, Cristian Arvelo, CEO of Waypoint, quietly played a game of League of Legends in the back corner of the room. Completely zoned in, he wore a headset to keep him from being distracted by the play-by-play of the League of Legends World Championship being loudly projected in the background. “For the children,” he bursted out, raising his hands in the air. He, along with the other gamers in the room, screamed this every time $1 was donated to charity.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, Waypoint Gaming, a premier eSports LAN center in Garden City, raised over $1300 for Cohen’s Children Hospital during their first ever 24-hour livestream for charity.
“Extra Life is a big movement where gamers will stream and donate all their funds to the charity of their choice,” Eric Marniaccio, COO of Waypoint Gaming, said.
In total, Extra Life raised over $2 million during the livestream for Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
Waypoint Gaming, which opened shop back in April of 2018, is one of the only public gaming hubs in Long Island, and the only one, apart from the Microsoft Store in Roosevelt Field Mall, in Garden City.
“It started pretty much Eric and I,” Cristian Arvelo, CEO of Waypoint Gaming, said. “We used to do LAN parties at our house, so what we did was we brought our computers around and we would literally just sit down and play games nonstop for 24 hours. Kinda like the 24 hour livestream we’re doing tonight.”
In gaming terms, a LAN is a party where people gather with their computers or game consoles and establish a local area connection, or LAN, between players so that they can play multipurpose games together.
At the center, that’s located across the street from Nassau Community College, people can use all the video game equipment available including a room of PC computers for internet games like the popular League of Legends and Fortnite, and a room of TV’s for console games that also includes a Virtual Reality headset.
“We’re still getting new people in every day especially now since school started again at Nassau,” Eric said. “So people just look at the sign and say ‘hey I like video games,’ and they come in.”
League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game, is currently one of the most popular competitive games in eSports and was the choice game for the biggest eSports tournament in the world, which brings in millions of dollars in revenue.
“The League of Legends World Championship is one of the most viewed sporting events every year,” Victoria Horsley, Esports Marketing Manager at the National Association of Collegiate Esports, said. “ eSports is estimated to become a billion dollar industry by the end of 2019.”
Because the industry is so popular and profitable, universities are beginning to recognize eSports as a sport the same way they recognize football as a sport, Tyler Schrodt, CEO of the Electronic Gaming Federation, said.
“So, back when we started [EGF] in 2013, we were running tournaments out of my dorm room, and that was pretty common across the whole industry at least as it related to college,” Schrodt, said. “Since then, we’ve had the introduction [of eSports] in Robert Morris [University in Illinois], the first program where scholarships were available to players. That has picked up an incredible amount and so you now see plus over 100 schools [colleges] that offer some level of scholarship, showing the same type of professionalization as regular sports.”
At Robert Morris University, eSports is part of the athletic department and student players have a chance to receive eSports scholarships. Other universities like UC Irvine and NYU have also picked up on the popularity of gaming and offer eSports scholarships of their own.
In 2017, the global eSports market was valued at around $493 million, according Statistia.com, a provider in market and consumer data. According to the data, the market is expected to generate close to $1.5 billion in revenue by 2020.
“There’s a lot of backing behind this [eSports] just because I think everyone sees all the money going into it,” Elieser Duran, eSports coordinator for NYIT, said. “Just last week Michael Jordan invested and then Drake invested, so it’s pretty crazy.”
Esports have not always been accepted in the realm of traditional sports, but Duran said that notion is changing and acceptance isn’t necessarily what they’re looking for.
“I think right now, eSports is getting so much recognition that we won’t need traditional sports’ blessing to continue on,” Duran said. “Great things are happening all over the place and if you’re not riding this train then get off, it’s something that’s going to happen one way or another.”