In a quiet, affluent neighborhood of mock-Tudor houses and flowering trees on the outskirts of Reading, England, a team of athletes is hard at work. In what used to be a suburban living room, desks bearing large monitors line the walls, their screens glowing brightly in the dimly lit space. The headphone-wearing young players barely register the entrance of an outsider. This is the OMEN House, home of the exceL esports “League of Legends” team.
If you haven’t heard of it, “League of Legends” is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) that has soared in popularity in the world of competitive esports, with exceL esports being one of the leading U.K. teams to play it.
Gaming today is a social activity — from the “LAN parties” of the early 2000s to today’s spectatorship via massive live tournaments and streaming platforms like Twitch — pro gamers are attracting rabid fans who keep up with their exploits on social media. And just like pro athletes, gamers must hone every aspect of themselves to be top competitors. “We like to work holistically,” says exceL coach Josh Furneaux. “It’s not just about how you perform in the game. It’s about your mental capabilities, physical capabilities, attention span, discipline.”