The name Kyle “Mongraal” Jackson may not be too familiar to you. But esports players who have played the popular Battle Royale game Fortnite may know it.
Jackson’s proficiency at the game has seen him snapped up by esports organisation Team Secret as part of their dedicated Fortnite roster. Jackson now plays alongside Mats “Sak0ner” Sorum, Domeniks “Domentos” Bunts, and Michael “VNHL” Gustad.
Of course, what’s striking is that Kyle, who hails from Sicup in Kent, is just 13 years old.
While Jackson’s age makes him one of the youngest professional esports gamers in the world, he is not alone. Pakistani gamer Sumail Hassan Syed (Suma1L) became the youngest gamer to earn $1,000,000 in esports winnings when he landed the massive The International 2015 title, as part of the winning Evil Geniuses team.
At the time of the win, Syed was just 16 years, two months, and 21 days old.
More baby-faced stars
Australian Pokemon player Orange Ocelot, known also by his first name Max, can beat even these small numbers. Oracle Empyre signed up Orange Ocelet after he grabbed the ranking of sixth-best Pokemon player in the Oceania region. He also earned sponsorships from two major Australian brands after earning a place at the Pokemon World Championships in Anaheim.
Orange Ocelot is only, wait for it, nine years old. And according to an interview with the Player Attack website, he also plays “Overwatch, Subnautica, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox.”
Just how young this Australian player is was perhaps best summed up when asked by the interviewer if he had any advice for people of any age who want to break into streaming and esports gaming.
“I can’t exactly give advice, but my mum could!” Max responded. “She’s helped me put together my brand, content, social media and streams and made it possible to attend [esports] events.”
Esports age demographics
While this trio of youngsters are on the more extreme end of esports ages, what is absolutely without doubt is that the age of the typical esports gamer is generally much younger than that of other competition spheres.
ESPN recently compiled research from the Elias Sports Bureau on a number of esports. They then compared players’ ages to those of pro athletes.
- Major League Baseball – 29.2 years old
- National Hockey League – 27.4 years old
- National Basketball Association – 26.8 years old
- National Football League – 26.6 years old
Now, the esports:
- Super Smash Brothers Melee – 25.2 years old
- CS:GO – 23.4 years old
- Super Smash Bros Wii U – 23.2 years old
- Starcraft II – 23.0 years old
- League of Legends – 21.2 years old
Of course, with younger and younger players playing the game at the highest levels, averages move. A good example of this is League of Legends veteran Daerek Hart (LemonNation). He is what ESPN describe as a “grizzled veteran” of the League of Legends pro circuit. Hart is 28 years old.
The oldest players in the sample size for other games including Ken Hoang for Super Smash Bros, who was 31 years old, while Daigo Umehara has earned himself a big name in the fight-game community and is the ripe old age of 36.
Why are youngsters so prolific at esports gaming?
So what is it about esports that seems to attract the younger player?
There are several reasons. Firstly, gaming in general is a young person’s pursuit, as we understand it culturally. But in general, an increasing number of children and young adults are playing more games more often.
Additionally, the fact that these games require rapid reactions, deft eye-hand coordination, and the ability to strategize also mean younger players are better suited to them.
As a 46-year-old gamer, I know only too well the pitfalls of taking on this younger generation in a game such as Call of Duty. Sometimes you are just too slow to match the skill and pace of young players.
Finally, the growth of the esports industry and stories of youngsters like the trio mentioned at the start of this article lead youth believe they can develop a career within the esports industry, if they are good enough. The playable and immersive nature of the top esports games makes these young players more than willing to invest time and energy.
What about the 40+ gamers?
However, is it possible esports will always be the sole domain of the young, fleet-of-fingered gamer? What about the generation of gamers who were the very first to experience the thrill of home gaming when the personal computer and the first consoles boomed in the 1980s and ’90s?
Could there be a niche market for esports where speed on the handset is not important as speed of thought and strategy?
Recently, the Football Manager series of games completed its first esports tournament at Insomnia62. Player Dan Fry won the £15,000 top prize. This esport doesn’t require fast arcade gaming skills; it is solely based on strategy. The game also has a massive following with millions of copies of the game sold each year on Steam and in shops.
It’s an interesting, still largely unexplored thought whether the most important quality in a certain esports genre could be … wisdom.