Burlingame High School junior Ryan Cheng and Middle College junior Justin Zheng have founded an esports company and competitive team, named Aether United.
Already treated like any other professional sports industry in European and Asian countries, “esports,” or the competitive playing of videogames, has yet to reach comparative peaks of popularity in North America. Nonetheless, it has blossomed relatively quickly. Numerous internet cafes and gaming stores have popped up in the Bay Area in the last ten years, including the Razer store in San Francisco, which hosted Aether United’s most recent tournament.
Cheng compared esports tournaments and basketball games to highlight their similarities. He described how two teams, comprising of at least five players respectively, face off using a single game. The difference: one takes place on a computer screen.
For instance, in League of Legends (LoL), one of the most popular games played competitively, two teams face off on a virtual battlefield inside the game. Every player on each team huddles over their own computer, and controls a single avatar.
Enter Zheng and Cheng, who have the goal of making waves in the esports industry. The words in the company’s name,“Aether” and “United,” each have unique meanings, and together they shed light on the ambitions of the two founders.
In Greek mythology, the being Aether was worshipped as the personification of light in the upper sphere of the heavens. Cheng and Zheng liked the name because it reminded them of the sky. It also sounds similar to “ethereum,” a pre existing bitcoin-like online currency that Cheng and Zheng hope to employ to revolutionize the esports world. Normally, a company that owns an esports team would make decisions independent of its fans’ opinions. However, Aether United will operate on a basis in which fans vote on t-shirt colors, team coaches, and even team-members for its team using ethereum tokens.
In other words: “They give us the money, we get the team, they make the decisions,” as Zheng said.
In addition, fans can even receive money depending on how much they invest in the team with their ethereum tokens,
“Think of it like Kickstarter,” Cheng said. “If we reach our goal, depending on your investment, we’ll give you a percentage of the utility tokens in total.”
“United” was pasted on at the end for moral reasons. The two founders wanted, according to Cheng, “to unite everyone together, regardless of what they are: investor, player or management.” In an industry dominated by young white and asian men, Zheng and Cheng hope to diversify the esports community by creating a culture of inclusiveness within their company and team. That is the inspiration behind Aether United’s catchphrase, #bettertogether.
As he adjusted the earbuds dangling around his neck, Cheng said, “We’re hoping to be the first crowd-powered esports team. We listen to the fans because, ultimately, that’s the only way we can survive as a company.”
On September 23, Aether United will hold a LoL tournament at AFKgg Game Lounge in San Jose.