Personally, I do not like money or huge prize pools in grassroots esports for the simple reason that I have seen how players can enjoy playing just for the fun of it—the friendships, the experiences and the pride of winning.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fine to have prizes for the winners, best teams, best players, and all that. And prizes like cups or trophies are amazing. When it comes to esports with kids and teens below 18 or 21 years old, I think monetary prizes should be secondary.
I have seen it in practice myself. In April 2018, we filled the concert hall of Esbjerg (Denmark’s 5th biggest city) with the finals of a grassroots esports tournament. We had teams traveling from all over to battle each other in CS:GO, on stage, with a fantastic setup, sounds, lights and an amazing caster. We had six teams in the finals and more than 1,000 fans on site– and no monetary prizes.
These were all grassroots players. Some players have tried other tournaments, but for the most part, this was their first tournament. It was the first time that the majority of the players played on a stage. They got to sit next to their teammates on a stage, playing in the finals, and in front of all their fans. Many told me it was amazing and an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
While this example is, perhaps, small compared to the rest of the esports world, it shows some of the motivating factors in grassroots esports: friendships, experiences and memories for life. Grassroots esports players want to continuously develop their skills while at the same time they want to make friends and be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to grow as people, and as players. They want to experience new things and be proactive in building grassroots esports. Some gamers get more involved by becoming tournament crew, or by becoming coaches, team leaders, casters, web designers or fundraisers.
I see grassroots esports players, coaches, and team leaders as people who want to make a difference for their club, for others, and for themselves. This is why I believe in grassroots esports. It provides a place for people and friendships to grow and in the end the individual player, coach, team leader and manager will feel like (and are) a meaningful part of something bigger.