What is esports? Everything you need to know about the sport and the national base in Sunderland

Esports has attracted a huge following in recent years

Sunderland is set to become a key name in the global phenomenon of esports, with British Esports Association setting up their national campus on Wearside.

Esports is one of the world's fastest growing industries, with thousands of people watching teams battle it out in tournaments for games like Fifa, Dota 2 and League of Legends.

The National Performance Campus will be beside The Stadium of Light and will be home to the national team.

But what exactly is esports?

Here is everything you need to know:

What is esports?

The practice of professional and competitive gaming, more widely known as esports, has existed for as long as multiplayer video gaming has.

However, improvements in technology have changed multiplayer from something done in one room by gamers on the same machine to an event that can include hundreds of players at once in different locations around the world, on different consoles and devices, linked by an internet connection.

This, along with the vast growth of many video game developers, has enabled many firms to fund and launch their own competitions for players.

As game streaming platforms such as Twitch have also emerged, it has helped turn these competitions into global events.

How popular is it?

An average of 1.68million people tuned into the 2021 Overwatch League Grand Finals per minute and before the pandemic, the 2019 FIFAe World Cup took place at the O2 in London and was broadcast online in six languages.

Other high-profile games such as Call of Duty and Rocket League now also have their own competitions.

In the era of social media fame and YouTube stars, eSports competitors and teams are also starting to build up their own identities and fan bases.

Now professional sports teams – including Manchester City – have formed their own eSports teams in order to take advantage of its growing popularity.

What will happen in the National Performance Centre in Sunderland?

There will be three main activities within the campus

- Educational classrooms with state of the art computers to learn and train about esports

- A performance element to improve the national team

- A small arena space to host live events

CEO of the British Esports Association, Chester King, told ITV News Tyne Tees: "We are part of the global federation so that will shine a light on Sunderland as a model for people to copy."

During the summer months, there will also be a summer camp, with international people coming to learn.

How is it likely to evolve?

With already more than half a billion fans globally, esports is expected to explode in popularity in the UK.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already acknowledged the growing popularity of esports, leading to reports it could feature at future Games.