By Frank Vascellaro

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This weekend, Minneapolis will launch a new kind of tournament. The world’s top professional video gamers will be competing in the largest “eSports” event ever in this region.

The Call of Duty League is made up of 12 teams from around the world. The one from Minnesota is called Rokkr. Over the past couple of years, eSports has grown from a basement hobby to a multi-million dollar industry.

Gaming fans tune into Twitch and other streaming sites to watch the best play, like Ashley Glassel, better known as MiDNiTE.

“Everyone knows Call of Duty. It’s practically the best selling game every single year.” Glassel said. “I have 244,000 Twitter followers, 650,000 YouTube subscribers, I had a large following online.”

What once were solely online tournaments have grown into a global platform. “It’s been amazing to watch eSports and particularly Call of Duty eSports- which is what I’ve been involved with – grow over the last 10 years has been incredible.” Glassel said.

Players now have sponsors and are recruited to professional teams. The Minnesota Rokkr are owned by the Wilfs, the same family which owns the Vikings. The team trains at a $2 million facility in Eagan.

“It’s at the point where players have health insurance, they have a retirement plan, they’re getting really good money to essentially live their dream,” said Glassel.

Like other pro eSports teams, the Rokkr has five starting players, two substitutes and one coach, with an assistant coach and analyst.

“This weekend, everyone in the whole league is coming to Minneapolis,” said Annie Scott Riley.

Not yet convinced watching video games is the future of the sports world? Gamers suggest you think of it like any other sport or competition.

“You’re watching these people who are the best 1% of the 1% right? They’re the best at what they do. They’re competing at the highest level so you’re gonna see that,” said Glassel.

“We think there’s a lot of eSports fans around here who haven’t had the opportunity to see eSports on this scale.” said Scott Riley. “And we can’t wait to show them what we can do.”

Like other sports broadcasts, announcers at this weekend’s tournament will call the matches and can switch to different players’ perspectives to take in all the action.

Each match lasts about 40 minutes.

Frank Vascellaro