Arenas aren't just for athletics, anymore. Opening Friday near Easton is the MLG.tv Arena - a 14,000-square-foot venue for Major League Gaming's most formidable gamers to face off. Though it might seem surprising Columbus would host the United States' flagship gaming arena, it's not so strange to MLG. Columbus has been one of MLG's hottest spots for eSports events since the organization started hosting competitions in 2003.

Arenas aren't just for athletics, anymore. Opening Friday near Easton is the MLG.tv Arena - a 14,000-square-foot venue for Major League Gaming's most formidable gamers to face off. Though it might seem surprising Columbus would host the United States' flagship gaming arena, it's not so strange to MLG. Columbus has been one of MLG's hottest spots for eSports events since the organization started hosting competitions in 2003.

"To date we have held 10 events [in Columbus] with tens of thousands of players and fans turning out for events over the years," said Adam Apicella, executive vice president of properties at MLG, in an email. "Plus, with 62 colleges in the Columbus region, hundreds of thousands of university and high school students in the 11-county area ... it was a no brainer."

The need for such a space wasn't warranted until relatively recently. MLG.tv, the 24-hour online streaming site that operates in conjunction with MLG, shows video of top-tier gamers worldwide dominating in their forte. These streams are no joke - 71 million people tuned in for competitive gaming events in 2013.

The massive attention eSports has garnered is also a result of the gaming industry itself. Turning on your console in the internet age is no longer a completely solitary experience. There's a larger community behind many game titles, and, as such, extremely dedicated teams form and compete.

"I think competitive gaming has become so popular due to broad global exposure through online streaming sites like MLG.tv and through new games geared for a competitive gaming audience," Apicella said. "The growth is only going to continue in years to come."

So it makes sense that the arena's holding MLG's playoffs for the team-oriented "Call of Duty: Ghosts" for its inaugural event. The eight teams set to compete in person in the playoffs were ranked the highest after three months of online play. With more than $75,000 in prizes to be bestowed - $30,000 of which goes to the top team - there's plenty at stake for these gamers this weekend. (More "Call of Duty" teams will return to Columbus in late November for an open series of "Advanced Warfare," the soon-to-be-released newest game in the franchise.)

Spectator passes are sold out for this weekend's kick-off, but you can tune into MLG.tv to get in on the action. Be forewarned, because watching truly gifted gamers play can be as addictive as playing them yourself.

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