Across the globe, esports — aka electronic sports — have been on the rise. In 2019, Comcast announced plans to build a $50 million gaming arena in Philadelphia; prize pools for tournaments break records year after year (in 2019, a single-event prize pool for multiplayer battle game Dota 2 was $34.3 million); and, according to gaming research agency Newzoo, global esports made $1.1 billion last year, a 27% increase from 2018.
And Cincinnati is keeping up.
Esports function much like their real-life counterparts, with video game competitions taking place in the professional, collegiate and amateur spheres.
And not only is the city home to PiviP, an esports tournament and gaming conference co-founded by Bill Donabedian of the Bunbury Music Festival, we also have a top-ranking professional esports player in Gordon “Fiddle” Thornsberry.
In 2019, FC Cincinnati signed Cincinnati-native Thornsberry in FIFA — a soccer simulation game created by EA Sports — to compete for them as part of the eMLS. (With 2019 being FCC’s first season in the MLS, the year also marked their first opportunity to have an eMLS presence.)
Fiddle previously had a contract with French soccer juggernauts Paris Saint-Germain FC (PSG) to play FIFA. “It’s pretty surreal to be honest. It happened so fast, with FC Cincinnati becoming a USL team and then an MLS and then me joining them,” Thornsberry told CityBeat in 2019. “It just all seemed like a dream, because I was signed to a big team. But it wasn’t the same because I’m not from France.”
Well Thornsberry isn't going anywhere anytime soon: FC Cincinnati has re-resigned him for the 2021 eMLS season, his third with the team.
According to FCC, "Thornsberry was crowned eMLS League Series One and League Series Two champion during the 2020 eMLS season and won the EA Sports FIFA 20 Summer Cup Series North America, earning him the title of the best FIFA player in North America."
“I am super grateful and excited to be back with the club for a third straight season,” Thornsberry said in a release. “After a successful season last year, I’m motivated to get more trophies and continue to represent the club the best I can.”
The 2021 eMLS season will expand to 27 teams, with Inter Miami CF and St. Louis City SC hopping on the bandwagon.
Details have yet to be announced for the eMLS season start date.