Sweaty Palms, Joysticks, and Monitors Are Taking Over the Sports Culture

Screen Grab via CBS News
League of Legends esports teams from around the globe compete at one of the largest venues at the 2018 NA LCS Summer Finals on Sept. 8.

Bill Carangelo 

Staff Writer

From a small community of passionate players to a multimillion-dollar industry; eSports has become an explosive commercial enterprise filled with competition and career opportunity in an ever-evolving market. 

To put into perspective the influence of eSports, one can look at the many high-profile celebrities who have become investors. 

According to eSportsbets.com, these include: Michael Jordan, Drake, Steph Curry, Rick Fox and Alex Rodriguez. 

The rise of eSports focuses on its diverse content and its transformation into a multimillion-dollar industry. 

League of Legends, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Counterstrike and countless other games offer players, viewers and sponsors with the opportunity to not only work with what they are most passionate about, but also with what would proactively work to benefit their own interests. 

Zane Meyer-Thornton, a former competitive Call of Duty player and now photojournalist, has experienced the transformation of eSports firsthand and used it to create a possible career path for himself.  

As of Feb. 2019, Meyer-Thornton has been signed as a freelance photojournalist in the LA area for the eSports organization, Cloud9. 

According to Forbes Magazine, Cloud9 is the most valuable professional eSports company with a net-worth of nearly $310 million. 

Meyer-Thornton’s career in eSports began in a way that many may find familiar; by playing video games. 

 “I started playing Halo 3… I remember I was just having so much fun and started to think ‘I wonder if you could do this as a job,’” 

Meyer-Thornton said. He then searched ‘professional Halo’ on YouTube, and began his journey. 

 According to Meyer-Thornton, the eSports scene at its inception was extremely passionate. 

“We were all just trying to be pros… [eSports] was about having a good time and trying to show that you were the best” he said. 

 With the influx of professional organizations comes change in the eSports community. 

 Meyer-Thornton points out the impact that this newfound money had on the community he has been a part of from the very start.  

“In [Call of Duty:] Black Ops 2, Complexity [Gaming] was the only team that was salaried and they would be making maybe $500 per month” he said.  

With investors and a brand to represent, players were forced to evolve along with the expanding industry. 

“[The organizations] want a degree of professionalism to come out of their players” Meyer-Thornton said. 

 The expansion of professional organizations into the eSports world is what has provided many with the chance to have a career within the community.  

 “I was linked to a tweet from Cloud9 that said they were looking for a photographer. So, I sent in a portfolio and filled out a short information section about myself and provided references” Meyer-Thornton said.  

A point of emphasis that he notes is the difference between being a freelance photojournalist, and being signed to an organization. Prior to being signed, Meyer-Thornton would photograph early rounds in eSports tournaments where conditions were not ideal.  

This was all for the purpose of creating a resume that would be marketable within the gaming community. 

However, after working with Cloud9, he was given the opportunity to shoot later rounds in eSports tournaments that allowed him to maximize his skills.  

“I was just happy to be a part of an organization where I could produce good work” Meyer-Thornton said. 

Although the addition of professional organizations has changed the eSports scene, and it has allowed the community to expand greatly. 

This growth has allowed gaming culture to be a staple in popular culture, like the Fortnite dances kids do that are seen all over social media.  

Meyer-Thornton initially did not feel as if he had a purpose after gaming, until he discovered photography. 

The rise of eSports has allowed him to be fueled with a passion for doing what he loves within an industry that he has watched grow yearly.  

“It made me think that there are probably a bunch of people out there who haven’t had a chance to have a purpose” Meyer-Thornton said. 

The eSports industry is now ripe with investors and career opportunities for those interested in a career in the gaming industry.

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