There’s a new breakout game on the eSports scene: more and more, gamers streaming online are playing competitive rounds of chess in front of their virtual audiences.
For instance, NBC News profiled chess streamer Alexandra Botez, one of Canada’s top-ranked players. She’s taken to playing games live on the internet, all while posting in a chatroom to some 1,000 audience members and providing commentary — a marked shift from the usual slate of games featured on Twitch or other streaming platforms.
Chess is an old-school, turn-based, medieval combat strategy game. It features lots of the same tropes as other games in the genre: battle-ready knights, castles, even powerful “hero” units called queens, a subtle nod toward medieval royalty. In the game, combat is boiled down to its simplest form and centers around occupying spaces on a grid-like playing field.
The game has been kept alive by a cult following that never minded its monochrome graphics or rudimentary mechanics. Over the years, chess players have cultivated an air of refinement and sophistication. That culture clashes hard with Twitch’s fast-paced, casual, social media-like culture, but NBC reports chess is among the fastest-growing games on the platform.
Botez, however, provides a bridge between the two cultures.
“It’s crazy to me to have this kind of support and this kind of viewership online for chess,” Botez told NBC. “Chess has always been a passion of mine, but it was never something that was popular. It was never something I would have imagined would have grown to what it is today.”
READ MORE: Fast-and-loose culture of esports is upending once staid world of chess [NBC News]