Esports For Dummies
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Use this Cheat Sheet to help you as you enter the world of esports. Here you can learn some of the key esports lingo, find out about some professional teams worth watching, and see how to get started playing a mobile esports title, Clash Royale.

esports player ©Gorodenkoff/

Esports Lingo

One of the most confusing elements of entering the esports world is getting used to the language. Sometimes you hear a word that doesn’t seem like a word at all. Other times, you hear a word you know, but it is being used in a way that isn’t familiar. Knowing the following vocabulary can help you to understand what people are talking about. Key esports lingo includes:

  • buff: To cast a beneficial spell on a fellow player (or to receive such a spell).
  • client: Also sometimes called a launcher (and sometimes an app, though that can get confusing), a client is the software on your PC that connects to an online game.
  • debuff: To cast a spell that is detrimental to an opponent (or to have one cast on you). Typically, this spell lowers abilities.
  • DPS: Literally, damage per second. DPS is used in two ways in esports. The first is as a measure (of how much damage a character does in a second). The other is as the designation of an in-game player whose job is to do damage above all else.
  • feeding: Dying repeatedly, which gives the opposing team an advantage (specifically in experience points in a MOBA, though the term has spread to other games as well). Some debate exists among players as to whether feeding must be a deliberate action taken by a player (meaning that the person is trying to lose) or whether any and all people who die repeatedly, even if trying hard, are feeders.
  • frag: To kill an opponent in a first-ferson shooter game, typically by shooting. The term originates from kill with a fragment grenade.
  • gank: To slide into a lane to make a quick kill before returning to working the jungle.
  • GG: Literally, “good game,” a compliment extended after a contest. It is also the suffix of many esports-related web domains. The web domains are specifically for the Bailiwick of Guernsey. That fact could one day win you a trivia contest!
  • griefing: To repeatedly kill an opponent, typically one with less skill. Often also denotes that the person griefing is using unfair tactics.
  • grinding: The general term used for any repetitive activity done to develop in-game skills or levels. Most commonly, this means to play repeated matches to improve ladder rank, though it can also mean playing to unlock an item, to earn in-game credits, or to earn a specific level. A specific form of grinding in which the player seeks a specific item or to develop a specific skill is called The name farming derives from farming a resource, similarly to a farming simulator game in which the player commits a repetitive action or goes to a repetitive set of locations at set times (like a farmer checking crops).
  • K/D: Ratio of kills to deaths. Used to measure a player’s efficiency in games that allow for respawning.
  • ladder: The competitive ranking system for a game, often with tiers (the tiers being the “rungs” of the ladder). To earn a higher rank, the player must climb up.
  • lag: When your game moves slower, or you move slower within a multiplayer game. Lag is usually the result of a connection issue, but it can also be the result of having a computer without the processing power to run a game.
  • meta: From “metagaming,” meta means the best choices to make in the game at any given time; for example, the best character to pick or the best abilities to have. The meta changes any time a change is made to the game, but a competitive player is expected to know what the meta is. Sometimes people inaccurately believe that meta is an acronym for “most effective technique available.” Although that belief isn’t true, it is a good way to remember what meta means.
  • ping: Literally, the ping is the amount of time it takes data to transmit from your computer to the game server. More generally, players mention ping as a way of talking about the latency of their connection. Latency is the consistent speed of data from your computer to the game server, and it can (and usually does) vary over the course of a match. To be high-ping is bad, and it often means that your game will lag.
  • queue: As a verb, the act of entering oneself into the waiting list for a competitive match. To do this alone is also called “solo queueing.” The list itself, as a noun, is also called a queue. To add to the confusion, people refer to playing with random people (as opposed to with their team) as queueing or that those matches happened “in queue.”
  • ringer: As it means in sports, a ringer is a player that is better than the competition expects, a player who is not typically a part of the team (usually a substitute)
  • RNG: Literally, random number generator. RNG is the terminology used to describe any in-game event that is randomized. For example, the card drawn each round in a game of Hearthstone is the result of RNG because you cannot stack the deck.
  • run: Treated as both a verb and a noun in esports. As a verb, running (usually used with another word, like “running a dungeon” or “running a map”) means to play a single attempt at some game unit. As a noun, run is often used as the word for that unit; for example, “I’m looking for a dungeon run.”
  • smurf: Named after the blue cartoon characters, a smurf is a secondary account owned by a talented competitive player so that he or she can play at a lower level. These often exist so that a highly ranked player can play casually with friends and not worry about damaging their rank, though sometimes they are also used to “ring” (the act of being a ringer).
  • spiraling: Similar to tilting, spiraling is when someone’s play consistently gets worse, typically within a match or series of matches. Can also lead to the player being accused of feeding.
  • support: A game role whose job in a match is to heal (return health to) or buff (create the ability for other players to do better) fellow players. In addition to identifying a key role, female players are often stereotypically presumed to play support roles, which can be problematic.
  • tilting: Losing one’s cool and becoming upset, or even hostile, during a match. Though few on the scene realize it, the term originally comes from how frustrated players would tilt pinball machines to gain advantage.
  • theorycrafting: The result of smashing “theory” and “crafting” together. In esports, theorycrafting is the art of trying to develop strategies that work from the mechanics of a game to build toward a new meta. After the theories are tried, they either become part of the meta or don’t. The theorycrafting part is the pre-play thinking and planning.
  • Tank: A game role whose job in a match is to draw enemy attention and take damage while other players do their jobs.
  • Tunnel: Tunneling is when a player becomes so focused on a single objective or target that they ignore everything This can also lead to feeding.

4 Professional Esports Teams to Know

Many, many competitive teams are in the esports world. It can be intimidating to get started. The following four teams are a good place to start. Odds are good that at least one of the four will win you over as a fan!

  • Cloud9: Founded in 2013. The ESPN 2018 Esports Team of the Year, Cloud9 owns and operates the Overwatch League’s London Spitfire, the first OWL team in Europe. Cloud9 player Shroud’s popularity as a streaming personality is second only to Ninja (in fact, Microsoft signed Shroud, too, in an effort to further bolster Mixer after signing Ninja). Cloud9 offers teams in:
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • Dota 2
    • Fortnite
    • Hearthstone
    • League of Legends
    • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile
    • Rainbow Six Siege
    • Rocket League
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee
    • Teamfight Tactics
    • World of Warcraft
  • Team Liquid: Founded in 2000. Team Liquid started as a StarCraft II clan, which makes it one of the oldest organizations still running. Today, Team Liquid boasts one of the most diverse lists of active titles for any esports organization in the world. Among its best known players is Super Smash Bros. professional HungryBox, who is currently regarded as one of the five Super Smash Bros. Melee Gods, is the highest-ranked Melee player in the world as of this writing, and is notorious for using adorable Pokémon JigglyPuff as his main character. Team Liquid offers teams in:
    • Apex Legends
    •  Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • Dota 2
    • Fortnite
    • Hearthstone
    • League of Legends
    • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
    • Rainbow Six Siege
    • StarCraft II
    • Street Fighter V
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee
    • World of Warcraft
  • 100 Thieves: Founded in 2017. 100 Thieves considers itself a lifestyle brand and has its own clothing line. The brainchild of former pro gamer Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves is co-owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, the rapper Drake, talent manager Scooter Braun, and Haag. One of 100 Thieves top Fortnite players, Valkyrae, is a YouTube exclusive streamer with a massive following, showing the world that women can top the K/D list. 100 Thieves offers teams in:
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • Fortnite
    • League of Legends
  • FaZe Clan: Founded in 2010. Known for its gregarious nature and legion of vloggers, FaZe Clan is one of the top esports organizations in the world without playing Overwatch or a single MOBA. Generally voted most popular by teenage players, some believe that FaZe Clan could become a billion dollar company if its marketing and member base continues to grow. FaZe Clan offers teams in:
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • Fortnite
    • FIFA 
    • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
    • Rainbow Six Siege

Get Started Playing Clash Royale

You’re probably itching to get started playing, but many major esports titles require powerful computers, expensive consoles, long downloads, and extensive learning curves. To get in the game quickly, though, you can start playing one of the most popular esports games in the world from any smartphone or Android/iOS tablet. With more than 100 million active players, Clash Royale is one of the most popular games in the world. And you can be started playing in minutes! All you need to do to get in the game is to follow these steps and read the tips after them:

  1. Power up your Android or iOS device.
  2. Locate either the Google Play store icon (on Android) or the Apple App Store icon (on iOS) and click it.
  3. Click the search box at the top of the screen and type Clash Royale; then click Search.
    Your first result will likely be the correct game, but to be certain, look for the title Clash Royale and the company name Supercell.
  4. Click the game’s name and then click the Install button.
    It is a free download, so no worries about payment at this point.
    When the game finishes downloading and installing, look for an icon for it on your phone. The icon shows the face of a bearded cartoon king complete with a crown against a light-blue background.
  5. Tap the icon to launch the game.
  6. After the game loads, enter your player name.
  7. Play the tutorial battle.

The game offers arrows onscreen to guide you where to click as you play your first match.

That it! You’re officially playing!

Clash Royale is easy to play but hard to master, as most esports games are, so if you want to learn some strategy, check out the Clash Royale subreddit or RoyaleAPI for tips, tricks, and elaborate strategies. When starting Clash Royale, the game’s tutorial mode will help you to master the basics, but here are a few pro tips to make your first few matches successful:

  • Make sure you balance the mana cost of your cards. Each card has a numerical value that indicates how much elixir (your rechargeable resource) it will cost to play. You want to have some very low-value cards (2 and 3) as well as some higher-value cards. If you have too many low-value cards, you will lack attack power later in the round, but if you load up too high on high-value cards, you will experience significant down time as you regenerate elixir. Nothing feels worse than being unable to play anything as the opposing army closes in on you.
  • Focus on attacking one of your opponent’s side towers and then the king tower. You don’t need to destroy both side towers first to win. This is a mistake that new players often make, and the game never really tells you. That second side tower will just collapse if you take out the king tower.
  • Make sure that after you have the option to use a swarm unit (a card that generates many small units instead of one large one), you add it to your deck. One of the most effective strategies in the game is tossing a swarm of smaller minions at your opponent’s heavy hitters. The swarm might only slow the bigger unit down, but that extra time allows you to react.
  • Don’t forget to play defense! It doesn’t matter how much damage you’re doing if your opponent knocks down your towers before you finish your offensive. Develop a solid defensive strategy and you’ll find gaps to attack after your opponent has used up all of their elixir.
  • Always build from the back of the field of battle, closest to your towers. It can be tempting to build your units as close as possible to your enemy, but you want the extra time with your units onscreen. You also want to try to lure your opponent closer to your towers. Your towers will damage opponents, so if you can keep opposing units just out of range to attack the tower, you can get the offense with your units and the tower behind them.
  • Always think about extending the game. If you have an elixir lead and your opponent plays a big unit, counter with your big unit to keep the game moving. Trying to be elixir-stingy often backfires. Your goal should be to run your opponent out of elixir and then attack with whatever you have left. A 2-cost minion that runs to the tower unchallenged will give you better results than a 6-cost minion that loses almost all its health fighting through opponents.

Have fun!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Phill "DrPhill" Alexander is a professor at Miami University's Armstrong Institute, teaching courses on esports and game design. He is also co-founder and director of Miami University's varsity esports program, the first of its kind at a school with Division I athletics.

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