VR esports takes professional gaming to the next level and fortunately for gamers, there are also plenty of opportunities for competitive VR esports, including leagues specifically designed to highlight VR games.
The industry of VR esports is still in its infancy, especially compared to its more traditional esports cousin, but the combination of technology and physicality required of participants in VR esports is appealing to a society that emphasizes health and fitness. People want to use technology and they like the fact that competitive VR esports require you to move, jump, duck, turn, etc.
Amazingly, although movement is required for competitive VR esports, the technology itself kind of levels the playing field in regards to making it possible for anyone to participate. In a traditional setting, a person in a wheelchair wouldn’t necessarily be able to compete on the same level as a professional athlete, for example. Virtual reality takes away barriers such as age, physical disability, health challenges, etc. and makes it possible for everyone to compete in a virtual environment where you anything is possible.
There are great things happening in the industry and this is a fantastic time to become involved in VR esports. Here are brief histories of some of the leagues we should keep an eye on during the coming year. As always, we’ll continue to highlight players, teams, and general stories related to the community so stay tuned in 2020 for more exciting information about these leagues and what’s going on in the world of VR esports!
VR Master League
The VR Master League (VRML) was established in early 2017 by DaKinMan as a place for the community to connect, find teams, and organize competitive matches.
The community-driven league initially launched with Downpour Interactive’s Onward, a first-person shooter built from the ground up for virtual reality. Since 2017, the league has mostly supported other VR first-person shooters, such as davevillz’ Pavlov VR and Caveman Studio’s Contractors. More recently, however, they also brought in Phaser Lock Interactive’s Final Assault, an action strategy game, and Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena, a VR sport game set in zero-gravity.
Prize pools continue to be small for the community-driven league, but this doesn’t deter the dedicated player base. Sponsors such as ProTube VR and VR Cover provide products for VR Master League championships and there is usually a small cash prize pool.
In 2018 Oculus and ESL teamed with the VR Master League to feature Onward as part of VR League Season 2. This collaboration continued for VR League Season 3 as well.
In 2020, as they continue to increase their numbers of competitive players, the VRML will also push overall community initiatives such as the events at DreamHack Atlanta and NiceOne Barcelona, where VRML players joined other community volunteers to introduce virtual reality to event guests.
Collegiate VR Esports League
The Collegiate VR Esports League (CVRE) began in January 2018 when a group of college-age students decided to launch a league specifically targeted toward the needs of collegiate level players.
The inaugural season was held in the fall of 2018 with six participating colleges. When season 3 began this fall, there were fifteen participating colleges and numerous others who have expressed interest in joining future seasons.
With the increased growth, the CVRE has also had to make updates to the website, the organization, and the overall tournament format. In addition, while members of the league have always focused on community-building efforts, they will do so in a more formal manner throughout 2020 in order to increase awareness of the league and VR esports as an option on college campuses.
Currently the biggest barrier for this league, like the other community-driven leagues, is funding. Universities are just now beginning to see the benefit of having VR labs, courses, etc. and most aren’t even aware that VR esports exists. Fortunately traditional esports have paved the way for VR gamers so colleges and universities are responding well to student requests for access to this technology. Headsets like the Oculus Quest make it even more possible for them provide VR to increasing numbers of college students.
Virtual Athletics League
In 2016, the Virtual Athletics League (VALVR) began as a concept at Virtualities, an arcade in Salt Lake City, Utah. The concept was to create a league that would provide arcade owners with a network of support for coordinated tournaments, prizes, etc.
There are now over 160 arcades involved with the Virtual Athletics League worldwide and they continue to feature the competitive VR esports that are particularly well-suited to arcades, such as Tower Tag.
League of International VR Esports
The League of International VR Esports (LIVE) was formed in 2019 to further develop the VR scene in areas that might not be covered by the other leagues.
Alex Rozenberg, founder of VRality, has actively participated in leagues, run tournaments out of his own arcade, and focused on community building for the past couple of years. When he launched the League of International VR Esports, it was clear that he wanted to avoid some of the barriers for the other leagues. Participants are welcome from anywhere in the world and they can also compete in the league whether they’re playing at home or in an arcade.
We’ll definitely want to keep an eye on all of these VR esports leagues in 2020. It’s definitely an exciting time to be involved in VR gaming and competitive VR esports.