More than one hundred E-Sports influencers and leaders gathered in Milwaukee’s Deer District on March 10 for the first ever Wisconsin Esports Summit.

What started in the 1980s, when kids rushed to arcades after school to drop quarters in games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, continued into the 1990s as another generation could use home consoles to play adventures with the Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog.

Within another decade, the video game industry would generate a fortune in revenue. The games market was estimated to bring in $180 billion in 2021, a 1.5% increase over 2020. It would also become a platform for kids who grew up battling pixels could be paid for their skills.

“The global E-Sports, electronic sports, economy is now in the billions of dollars, demonstrating a worldwide interest and love of gaming,” said MKEsports Alliance’s Brandon Tschacher. “Business Insider Intelligence says esports viewership will grow to 646 million. Deloitte says esports investments doubled in 2018.”

That impact is not just on the world’s stage, but right here in Milwaukee. What had once been a negative stigma, that gamers were just loners who played video games in their mom’s basement, has drastically changed. Now players who have sharpened their skills can engage in competitions like traditional athletes, and do so in public with an audience of fans.

“Over $330 million is added to our local economy thanks to Wisconsin’s growing video game industry,” Tschacher said. “Couple this with Milwaukee’s tech hub reputation as well as the city’s tech talent, and we are in a perfect position to dominate the esports market.”

MKEsports Alliance hosted the Wisconsin E-Sports Summit to bring individuals and organizations together around the present and future of electronic sports in the region. In addition to networking and gameplaying, guests gained key perspectives as well as data during panel discussions and breakout sessions.

“Milwaukee has played host to E-Sports events for over two decades now from the Midwest Gaming Classic to the Midwinter Gaming Convention. That is in addition to the solid gaming presence grown by local businesses, regional groups, and organizations such as the MKEsports Alliance,” said Marissa Werner, director of Sports Milwaukee. “Our esports scene is not only burgeoning, it’s thriving, making the Wisconsin Esports Summit a perfect fit for Milwaukee.”

Even Former Green Bay Packer Ahman Green traded in his cleats for a controller once he retired. He was just one of many who attended the first E-Sports Summit at the Fiserv Forum.

“Yes, I’m coaching competitive video gamers. It is a real thing. And it is here,” said Green.

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Yаn Krukоv, Lucіе Lіz, and Florіаn Оlivо