Dennis Fong has been involved in esports since the beginning. Listed in the Guinness World Records as the first ever professional esports player, his most notable achievement was winning the Red Annihilation Quake Tournament in 1993. Now long retired, the legendary gamer known as “Thresh,” watches on as the sport grows year by year.
Esports, also known as pro gaming, is basically playing video games competitively against other human players and teams. Over the years, the prizes offered in esports competitions have increased, and some of the top players have earned millions. According to EsportsEarnings, the top earning player in the world is Saahil Arora, also known as UNiVeRsE, who has accumulated over $2.7 million in prize money over his career.
Those kinds of figures are a long way from the money being offered when Fong was competing. “When I started, it was the beginning,” Fong says in an interview. “It was filling rooms with 100 people. Now we’re filling football stadiums.”
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Fong’s victory in the Red Annihilation Tournament did earn him an impressive prize, however. He drove away with the Ferrari of id Software’s CEO John Carmack.
Esports has always been popular: the sport had an enthusiastic following back when Fong was competing, although it was mostly an online community. The expansion of these communities, and improved accessibility, has taken esports to a new level of popularity, where people will pay to cheer on their favorite gamers live in person.
One of the key contributors to the boost in popularity has been Twitch, the video game streaming service. Twitch lets you publish a live stream of the video game you are playing, and interact with people watching the stream. Some of the largest Twitch channels have over 2 million followers, and the most popular channel has 889 million views.
“The ecosystem grew around Twitch and its broadcasting. There’s a level of accessibility you don’t see in traditional sports,” Nick Allen, Director of Operations, esports, at Twitch recently said during a panel discussion at CES.
Twitch allows fans to watch and interact with pro gamers, meaning they are connected to the sport in ways that supporters of soccer, American football, and basketball teams can only dream of.
Spurred on by this type of digital interactivity, fans have been quick to flood to events in the real world. League of Legends, a free game created by Riot Games, regularly puts on events at Madison Square Garden in New York, and sells the venue out two days in a row.
Fong may have retired from professional gaming, but he still plays. Some of the games he enjoys include Overwatch, League of Legends, and Clash Royale, a mobile game he proudly states he is ranked number six in the world, so he knows he’s “still got it.”
Fong founded and is now CEO of Plays.TV, which helps gamers capture and share epic moments in games. “Video games are created and designed to experience these moments,” he explains. “That’s the dopamine hit that keeps you coming back for more. Those used to be water cooler moments. You’d see your friends at school and work the next day and you’d talk about it. Now you can relieve it.”
He also mentors some team managers and former players, and is involved with Riot Games and the League of Legends world championships, which he describes as the pre-eminent world esports event.
Despite the progress the sport has made, Fong is keen to stress that esports is still in its early stages. “The way I see esports is it’s really early ultimately. Revenue generation per user compared to other sports is tiny. It’s a good thing though, there’s potential for a lot of growth.”
Fong says that merchandise is a huge opportunity the sport can capitalize on, from endorsed hardware to shirts with gamers’ names on them. However, he sees an even bigger opportunity on the horizon. Esports is currently a fragmented business, with a huge number of competitions and games all being played at the same time. “The giant opportunity is one day, and it’s possible it won’t happen, is one giant ownership structure and governing body for esports. That would be a multi-billion-dollar opportunity,” Fong says.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.