Esports vs. Online Gaming: What’s the Difference?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the term “esports.” In fact, with the rising popularity of esports among kids, teens, and adults, there’s a pretty good chance your school might even have an esports league as an extracurricular activity! Esports has been making headlines with its highly competitive and exciting matches, large crowds, and impressive prize pots. A number of colleges and universities have even begun awarding esports scholarships to students who demonstrate exceptional ability in these games. 

But what’s the difference between esports and online gaming? (And is there even a difference?) While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between the two. Here’s what you need to know about esports, online gaming, and how they fit together.

Online Gaming

In a nutshell, “gaming” is the catch-all term for playing video games, either alone, with friends or online. Any video gameplay can fall into the category of online gaming, whether it is done on consoles like the PlayStation 5, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, via a PC such as the games found on Steam, or on a smartphone or tablet. Anyone can participate in online gaming, regardless of their age, ability level or the platform they are using.


While esports are included under the online gaming umbrella, not all online gaming falls into the esports category. Esports focuses solely on competitive video gaming, with one clear winner and one clear loser on each side. Depending on the level of esports competition, the prizes may vary, but there is always something at stake. In other words, the difference between gaming and esports is similar to the difference between shooting hoops with friends at a park and being on a sanctioned basketball team with scheduled games and a championship at stake.

Whether your interest lies solely in online gaming for fun or you have aspirations to win an esports championship, the proper equipment is a must. In addition to having access to the game itself and the console or platform on which it is played, gamers can benefit from headphones or headsets that allow them to converse with other players as well as hear the sounds and music that are all part of the gaming experience, all without disturbing others or becoming distracted by background noise. These headsets need not be expensive; plenty of quality headphones and headsets for gaming and other purposes are available at various price points.

Gaming can be a wonderful hobby for making new friends and challenging yourself to try something new without ever leaving your house. Now with esports on the rise, it can also be an exciting, lucrative career path for those who are serious about it. Either way, you’re guaranteed a whole lot of fun!