PENSACOLA, Fla. – It was little surprise and ultimately hard to miss the boost in prominence esports, i.e. competitive video games, during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

After years building massive online audiences, esports has broadened its place in the modern mainstream during the days of social distancing, filling the prime-time void on ESPN and other prominent sports networks.

In Pensacola, video games have even briefly replaced some youth sports and recreation.

Locally, the Navy is hosting esports tournaments in Madden 20 for service members and a new esports hub was recently founded at the OWA entertainment complex in Foley, Alabama.

Pensacola-based event management company Snap Soccer, which is affiliated with Perdido Bay FC, has hosted virtual soccer league and tournament play with FIFA on Xbox and Playstation consoles.

Players represent their full-time soccer club with logos while league organizers produce content like brackets, standings and individual honors such as “Player of the Month.”

With sponsorship from Puma and Soccer.com, even local players can compete for more than just bragging rights.

“Even when I was coming up, soccer and video games weren’t so mainstream online,” said 27-year-old Parker McIntosh, Snap Soccer’s eGaming director. “Major League Gaming was something that I remember and it was a pretty big deal. Now it’s kind of like the market is flooded.

“The
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