The anticipation builds as the two fighters wait their turns. In their minds, they think back to all of the strategies that they know.

When their names are called, the tension in the room will escalate with the eyes of the crowd upon them.

“Three, two, one, go!”

And the battle begins as two pop culture icons fight it out on screen, and the players controlling them smash their thumbs down onto the buttons of their tiny controllers. Both of the contestants know that only one will win the $500 pot and be titled champion of the Glowhouse Gaming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament.

Tournaments like this take place all over the world and are becoming a large part of gaming culture. The term “professional gamer” has a debatable context to it, with opposing sides viewing video games as an actual sport and profession.

Many of these gamers can actually be signed on by bigger companies to play across the world. The increase in these events may seem like a new thing, but in reality tournaments like these have been taking place from decades, dating back to the late 70s and early 80s where champions could be printed in the rankings of the Guinness Book of World Records.

This speculation can be due to the recent increase in broadcasting of worldwide tournaments. The global leader in gaming and eSports analytics, Newzoo, reports a growth revenue of $906 million in 2018 to $1.7 billion in 2021.

Glowhouse Gaming, located in Santa Clarita’s industrial center on Avenue Stanford just down the street from Six Flags Magic Mountain, has grown over the last few years to be a popular location for video game tournaments to take place locally.

“It’s really comfortable,” tournament competitor Nicolaus Robinson said before jumping into his next battle. “Like a lot of venues don’t really cater to the players. They’re small. It’s not a lot of room. Here, I can actually move around.” 

Not only does Glowhouse Gaming cater to the competitive gaming community, but they also host many fun events in the community for gaming and music with some of the local schools. They open their space up as a safe place for people to socialize and enjoy their time gaming with one another.

“We’re opening up to almost being an eSports arena and allowing people to come in during normal hours to come play with their friends,” Glowhouse Gaming tournament organizer Tim Norris said.

“[Customers] let us know they are coming back because we have great staff, we have great games, we just have a great environment,” Glowhouse Gaming owner Marcell Gordon said. “They just feel comfortable because we have adults that just want to drop their kids off and let us watch them for three and four hours. That’s a great feeling for us as a business because you have customers that are trusting us with their children.”

Once a month, Glowhouse Gaming throws various tournament mixers for competitors from all over Southern California to come in and compete.

“We have a lot of players from Hollywood, we had a couple from Ojai and Ontario, you know, way the heck out there,” Norris said. “We have a lot of people coming from Antelope Valley that’re good friends of ours.”

Playing games such as Fortnite and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, competitors range from those just starting out in a competitive space and some of the top players to compete in Southern California.

“I have to travel an hour if I want to come here every time,” competitor Samuel Gottlieb said. “I don’t play for money, I just play for fun. I’m not good enough to play for money.”

To help draw in attention from both within and outside of the Santa Clarita Valley, Glowhouse Gaming broadcasts their contests on the popular gaming stream site, Twitch.

“Generally you want the top players in your tournament on the stream to keep up hype and energy so people keep watching,” Norris said. “If we have fewer players outside of the bracket, anyone we think would be a fun match we can throw on to the stream.”

Across the country, high schools are even beginning to introduce eSports as a varsity team. In a CNN report, states such as Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have begun competing amongst their schools back in 2018. More schools across the U.S. are expected to follow in the coming years, including California,

Many are finding it hard to believe that video games are not only being considered sports, but are at the same time being broadcast on popular sports channels, including ESPN.

“Video games should not even be mentioned in the same breath as the words sport or athlete,” according to Shmackem, an internet opinion page. “According to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word sport is ‘An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Physical exertion is the key phrase in the definition of a sport, there is no real physical exertion in video gaming.”

Others, though, absolutely believe video games are a sport due to their complex coordination abilities that gamers could share with a baseball player aiming for the right pitch to hit and being as quick and responsive as a hockey goaltender.

Although some tend to view video games as an unnecessary addition to the term “sport,” the culture of video game tournaments continues to thrive and climb with a new generation of gamers pushing for higher recognition.

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