In late 2016, a sports championship event was held in Chicago, drawing 43 million viewers during the series finals. That was 12 million more people than watched the 2016 NBA Finals.

It wasn’t soccer, or football, or even the World Series of Poker. Instead, it was the “League of Legends” World Finals, an esports competition.

Video games have been popular for more than 30 years, but competitive gaming, or esports, has recently emerged as a spectator activity that can draw thousands of attendees and viewers. Major sports networks such as ESPN, Fox Sports, MLB Advanced Media and the Big Ten Network have started broadcasting esports competitions, often partnering with major gaming companies like EA Sports, Riot and Blizzard. What is driving this phenomenon, and where is it taking us next?