Esports house a sign of growing industry in Georgia

In a quiet Georgia subdivision, home to carpools and cookouts lives a new kind of American dream.

“It's crazy,” said Drake Haggard “It doesn't seem real.”

An American dream that might surprise some, and cause envy in others.

“For me personally, I wake up around 12:30 p.m.,” said 21-year-old Oliver Bauer.

Sleeping in is a nice perk, but it comes with work; work that also happens to be rather fun. SoaR Gaming is an esports company and brand, with Georgia as their home base. Several members of the team call metro Atlanta home, even though they’re drawn from all over the map.

The company has several aspects: most notably, several of the housemates stream their video gaming online, earning fans and followers. This can lead to sponsorships, money from streaming sites and other revenue streams.

“For the longest time, I couldn't believe this was actually possible and people were letting me do this,” said SoaR president and CEO Michael Maknojia.

The term “esports,” for the uninitiated, refers to competitive video games, an industry growing around the world, including in Georgia. Large audiences gather for in-person events, sometimes held at large sports arenas; and bigger crowds watch events online.

Video game streaming is a big part of the budding industry as well, where fans can watch their favorite player live, often with the player themselves superimposed over the gaming screen offering commentary.

That’s what SoaR was doing when they decided they could take their endeavor to the next level by moving some members into a house.

"I guess we're pretty well known in the neighborhood as 'the gamers,'” said Bauer.

In addition to just playing, they also make fun videos of their exploits: some are highlights from gaming sessions, others are having fun around the house, all designed to build a connection with their fans.

The top esports players in the world can make six- or even seven-figure salaries. Those living in the SoaR house declined to talk specifics of what they make, but it’s a living. Still, they say, money isn’t the point: it’s doing what they love with people they care about, and making viewers happy.

"Whether the money works out or not, some of the best years of my life were spent making no money doing this,” said 21-year-old Aidan Kliebhan.