The VR Esports Beginners Guide

Table of Contents

5 Reasons You Should Get Involved with VR Esports RIGHT NOW

There’s been an increasing amount of attention placed on VR esports, with mainstream media figures starting to notice that yes, this scene exists, and it represents the next wave of competitive entertainment. With that additional attention, there’s been an influx of questions about how to get into it.

While this is a subject near and dear to my heart and I could talk for hours about it - I wrote the literal book on competition - I’m breaking from my normal, long-winded format here and giving you a compact list of reasons why you should give it a shot.

If you want more in-depth explanations, my other videos about esports and my book are both much deeper resources. And, of course, if you enjoy this video, share it with any friends who you think should also give VR esports a shot.

#1: You Have Nothing to Lose & Everything to Gain

First and foremost, competing (at least in VR esports) is free, meaning the downside is practically zero. If you don’t enjoy it for any reason, you can simply drop out and do something else with your time.

But if you like it, you’ll have an infinite field of possibilities in front of you. Prize money can be won, lifelong friends can be made, and valuable skills such as teamwork, communication, and strategic planning can all be refined to an extremely high level.

Best of all, you don’t have to go anywhere to do it! All of this upside can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home, unless you get good enough to play in a LAN like the upcoming IVRL Vail LAN in Miami - in which case you’ll get a fully-paid for trip to one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Yes, you do have to own a VR headset, but if you can afford a console or gaming PC, you can easily afford a headset, and the potential upside is so gigantic it should be considered an investment rather than an outright expense.

Let me be as clear as possible: If you get involved now, you can be part of something truly transformational in the history of not only esports, but gaming in general.

Even if I’m somehow wrong about that, you’ll learn valuable skills that you can carry over into anything else you do in life. And it will cost you practically nothing. Or you can pass and miss out on a chance to partake in gaming history.

#2: VR Esports Are Your Best Shot at Going Pro

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pro player in other esports, good luck. They’re so congested with talent that now only people who can dedicate all of their time and energy have any chance of competing.

Add to that the fact that massive esports orgs have monopolized the most impressive talent, and becoming a pro is often a matter of killing yourself to get their attention - which is itself an insanely competitive rat race.

VR esports are getting more competitive all the time, but it’s still just small enough that if you join now, you’ll still have a shot at finding a place where you can make a real career out of it.

This is an opportunity that won’t come around again anytime soon, so if your goal is to be a professional player, you need to seriously consider competing in VR esports.

Even if you don’t want to be a player, or you can’t make it there despite your best efforts, the VR esports scene needs casters, moderators, game developers, content creators and a whole host of other positions that have yet to be monopolized.

There are potential careers all over the place, no matter how good you are at the games themselves. If you love immersive technology, the opportunities are about to get insanely good for anyone who has taken the time to get involved.

If you wait until after it’s big, you will have missed out on the bulk of those opportunities.

#3: You Already Play Games that Translate to VR

If you have a decent baseline of experience in first-person shooters like CSGO, Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege or Call of Duty, you already have what you need to do extremely well in VR esports.

There are quite a few high-level VR esports players with mainstream pancake esports backgrounds who showed up and started shaking the scene up right away.

If you understand callouts, team communication, angle control, and other fundamentals of pancake shooters, it’s just a matter of adapting that knowledge to the physicality of VR.

The same goes for anyone who has a decent chunk of hours competing in paintball or airsoft, in fact I personally believe that is the single most important cross-over skill a VR esports player can possess.

It combines the situational awareness, game sense and physical skills required to do well in VR.The overall point here is that you shouldn’t be intimidated by the fact that you don’t have experience in VR esports if you’re coming from pancake esports.

Your skillset will translate well, and you’ll have an edge over anyone who is starting from scratch.

Reason #4: You Can Ride the VR Wave Before It’s Too Late

Although there’s been hype about VR for years now, as I’ve detailed in my video VR and the Future of Esports, it’s finally about to hit the mainstream.

When it first came out as a consumer technology back in 2016, the headsets and gaming PCs were too expensive, and the software available was too primitive to be attractive to most people.

As a result, it languished for a long time as a niche hobby and the VR esports scene was confined to a few dedicated VR enthusiasts.

The Quest series, with its low prices and ability to run games without a PC, created a situation where average consumers now have considerable exposure to VR as a technology, and the upsurge in popularity means there’s more money to be made for developers.

As a result, the VR ecosystem, including hardware and software, is booming. The various VR esports scenes have been building quietly in the background, and now games like VAIL are kicking off the long-awaited VR esports Big Bang.

If you get in now, you’ll enter right before it truly takes off, but after it’s exited that weird stage where it’s a bunch of early adopters with no real traction.

Reason #5: You’ll Have the Time of Your Life

If you think that competing with your friends in a pancake game is a good time, wait until you try VR esports.

While it may not look that impressive right now when viewed through a flat screen format like this video, when you put on the headset and experience it, you’ll quickly understand why the VR esports scene is so hardcore.

It’s almost like an altered state, because your entire sense of reality is altered once you enter VR.

Think of it this way: pancake games are the equivalent of watching a movie. You can get involved with the story if it’s well-written and the visuals are decent, but you never feel like you’re in it.

When you look away from the screen, you’re still in whatever place you were before. But when you put on a VR headset, it’s like being in the movie.

You’re no longer sitting on your couch enjoying an experience from a distance, you’re living it. You are surrounded by that environment and it takes over your entire world until it ends.

Now carry this over to esports. Instead of trying to immerse yourself in the moment by staring at a screen while you sit in some leet gamer chair, your entire body is engaged with the virtual.

Every round win or loss feels ten times more impactful, every kill ten times more glorious. Now add your friends to the mix, and you have the most fun esports experience possible. Even if you don’t get very far, you’ll never regret the time you spent competing in VR with your pals.

Ready to make the leap? Click on the Headsets & Accessories tab at the top!

VR Headsets & Accessories for Esports

Once you've made the decision to get involved, the first step is to get yourself a headset. If you already have one, you can safely skip this section and go right to the Games section of this guide.

Here's a TLDR for those of you who are new and just want to know what to buy:

Get a Quest 2, Elite strap and a battery pack. Pick up a Bowk stock if you want to increase the accuracy of your two-handed shots, and a Link cable if you want to play PCVR games while plugged in (you can use the free AirLink feature or Virtual Desktop if you don't want to plug in).

Buy a Valve Index if you want to splurge on a more expensive headset ($1,000), don't care about playing with a cable, and want improved tracking and comfort.

Want to build a gaming PC that can run VR games? This is a helpful guide.

Meta Quest 2

The all-around best VR esports headset as of right now is the Meta Quest 2.

A Meta Quest 2 headset and controllers

The reasons for this are pretty straightforward: it has high per-eye resolution, it can play games in both standalone and PCVR modes, it's highly customizable and it's cheap compared to every other consumer-grade option.

Quest 2s are the most versatile headsets available, as you can get into VR right away and dip your toe into the water without investing far more in a PCVR setup. If you want to go deeper, you can build your PC and then use the Quest 2 with your new hardware as well via AirLink, Link or Virtual Desktop.

The primary downside to the Quest 2 is the tracking system it uses, which is known as "inside-out tracking." If you look at the picture above, you'll the black dots on the edges of the headset. These are cameras that track your position in space, along with the position of your controllers.

Historically, VR headsets used external tracking, where external sensors were placed around the room to make the same calculations. It's more expensive and requires some setup, but external tracking tends to offer superior tracking.

What most people don't like about external tracking headsets is the fact that they have to be plugged in to a PC. Not only does that require a PC in the first place, but it also means you have to deal with wires. Once you've played wirelessly, it's very hard to give up since it is the most free feeling you can get in VR.

Inside-out tracking works and many high-level VR esports players use Quest 2s, but if you want absolute precision then external tracking is slightly better. In my opinion, this is not enough of a reason to invest in a different headset unless you're in a financial position that allows for the extra expense, but your mileage may vary.

Quest 2 Accessories

Elite Strap

If you buy a Quest 2, do yourself a favor and buy a new headstrap. The default strap is incredibly uncomfortable (my friend Chief Pineapple likes to say it feels like "a bikini for your head") and can detract from your playing experience.

The Elite strap is a good option, although some have reported that the plastic is prone to twisting and breaking. I've had mine for quite some time now and haven't had that issue. There are also a variety of third-party strap options, but since I've never tried any of them I can't endorse them here.

Battery Pack

It's also worth investing in a battery pack to increase battery life. The default battery life on the Quest 2 is about 2 hours, depending on the game. This is fine for a single match in most cases, but if you're in a tournament setting or want to practice for longer periods of time, you'll run into issues.

I use an Anker battery pack. Although I don't often play for more than a few hours anymore, I've pushed it beyond 4 hours and still had juice left in the pack itself (which meant total battery life was at least 6 hours).

Link Cable

And, of course, if you want to play PCVR with a Link cable instead of wirelessly, don't buy the official Meta cable - it's just a USB-C and the official cable is just marked up. I used an Anker cable before I tried wireless on AirLink and Virtual Desktop and never turned back, but any kind of USB-C that's at least 10 feet (3 meters) long should be suitable.

Valve Index

For those of you who want external tracking and the best default comfort level in consumer VR, the Valve Index is the next-best overall choice.

Valve Index VR headset and trackers

As you can see from the picture above, there are external trackers (those black boxes on either side of the headset), and the strap is quite luxurious. The controllers are also uniquely-shaped and designed for precision tracking of individual fingers. A part of me thinks that the Index's prime appeal is the fact that people can flip each other off because of that finger tracking...

Although I still believe the Quest 2 is the best overall deal, there's no denying that the Index is a Ferrari of a headset. It has a wider field-of-view (FOV) than the Quest 2 (meaning you can see more of your surroundings), although the resolution is slightly lower.

All of this luxury comes with a price: the Index kit that includes trackers (which you'll need if you don't have them already) is $999. That's more twice the price of the top-end 256GB Quest 2 - and you don't get wireless options.

I personally prefer the Quest 2 controllers as well, as they feel far more natural to me than Index controllers. They also have a propensity for breaking - I don't think I know anyone who hasn't had to RMA their Index controllers at least once.

All that being said, there are quite a few quality VR esports competitors who use Indexes successfully, so if you really want to take the plunge and spend money on a top-of-the-line headset, the Index is not a bad choice.

These are the two primary choices for people who want to play VR esports. There are other headsets on the market, most of which cater to different audiences (such as the flight sim crowd), but none of them are designed to play well in competitive environments.

VR Esports Gun Stocks

Throughout the years, players of VR FPS games have discovered that using a platform for their controllers to steady their aim, known as a "gun stock" (or simply "stock" for short) can be a beneficial addition to their competitive arsenal.

To be clear: they aren't 100% necessary if you want to go far, and some people are adamant about "free-handing" their controllers. The best advice I can give to you, as someone who has competed as both a free-hander and a stock user, is to give stocks a try and make a decision for yourself. If you don't like it, you can always get a refund.

So what's the best gun stock choice for VR esports? It is unambiguously the BowkVR line of stocks, which are all made by hand by JamesBowk, one of the best Onward players of all-time (although he'd never admit to that...).

There are stocks designed to look "tacticool," with features like fake red dots, accessory rails, and all kinds of other unnecessary components designed specifically to increase immersion. That's all well and good if you play casually, but if you want to do well in VR esports, you need something that's lightweight, unobtrusive and stable.

Bowk stocks are made with all of those goals in mind. Rather than go on and on about them (which I could do), just give these videos a watch:

BowkVR makes stocks for both Quests and Indexes, and there are options for every budget. Head over to the website to get yours if you're interested in giving a stock a shot.

Ready to move on to picking a VR esports game? Scroll back up to the Table of Contents by clicking this link!

VR Esports Games

Now that you have the equipment to play VR esports, it's time to pick the games you want to compete in. Which games you pick depend heavily on what your tastes are and what skills you can transfer from pancake games you've played in the past.

This section is broken into two pieces: a quick reference table and details about each game. If a game interests you, click the link in the quick reference table and you'll be able to read more about it.


Game Type

Similar To


First-person shooter

CSGO, Valorant


First-person shooter

Insurgency, R6 Siege


First-person shooter

Call of Duty, CSGO


First-person shooter

Call of Duty, CSGO

Echo Arena

Space frisbee



Soccer archery

Rocket League




Population: One

Battle royale

Warzone, Fortnite


VAIL is the first VR game designed from the ground up as an esport. The mechanics are very similar to CSGO, so if you have experience in that game or Valorant, this is an excellent starting point.

It's currently free, you just need to get ahold of a key from the developers, AEXLab. You can do that by going to their Discord or the IVRL Vail Discord.

Their launch tournament, hosted by the IVRL, boasts a $35,000 prize pool and a live LAN event in Miami.

Key features:

- First-person shooter
- High TTK (emphasis on headshots)
- Built from the ground up as an esport
PCVR only


Onward is a tactical first-person shooter designed with a low TTK, ambush-focused style of gameplay in mind. Despite the first version releasing in 2017, it's still an incredibly popular choice for VR esports because of it the high skill ceiling and difficulty of the game itself.

High-level Onward players are experts at positioning, as the game rewards putting yourself at the most advantageous angle over pure speed and aggression. This was my first VR esport, and I recommend giving it a shot if you want a high-intensity, teamwork-oriented esports experience.

Key features:

- First-person shooter
- Low TTK (emphasis on positioning)
- Esports scene has been around since 2017
- Available on both standalone and PCVR


Contractors is similar to Call of Duty in that it emphasizes a fast-paced playstyle and allows for moves like sliding and jumping. Although there are a variety of game modes built into the game, the primary one used in esports is Comp Control.

Comp Control is a ticket-based mode that revolves around capturing a randomly-spawning point until it triggers a 20 ticket decrease for the team that lost the point. Although the scene has gone through some slow periods, it's getting bigger all the time and multiple leagues now host it as a game.

Key features:

- First-person shooter
- High TTK (emphasis on headshots)
- Available on both standalone and PCVR


Pavlov is another VR game that was designed to mimic the game mechanics of fast-paced, high TTK shooters like Call of Duty. The esports scene is fairly small, but it's robust and has been around for years.

Key features:

- First-person shooter
- High TTK (emphasis on headshots)
- Available on both standalone and PCVR

Echo Arena

Echo Arena is played in a zero-G environment, where you must propel yourself around to manipulate a disk that you need to put through a goal on the opposite side of the arena. It's also unique in that it was the first free-to-play VR esport, which allowed it to become the largest VR esport out there.

While this isn't my preferred style of game, it serves an important role in the VR esports ecosystem: it's a physical, non-violent, non-shooting-oriented game that is appropriate for all ages. Many people don't enjoy or condone the violence of shooting games, and Echo Arena gives those people a game to play.

Key features:

- Zero-g space frisbee
- Free-to-play
- Largest esports scene in VR (so far)
- Available on both standalone and PCVR


Nock is an archery soccer game, which is a unique experience to VR. You use your arms for locomotion, and shoot a large ball in order to push it around a playing field with goals on either side. It's an exciting (and exhausting) experience.

This game represents the next wave of what I consider genuine esports: games that require real physical effort to play well. The esports scene just started as of this writing, but it holds quite a bit of potential as a future VR esport centerpiece.

Key features:

- Archery soccer
- Built with mechanics similar to Rocket League
- Developing esports scene
- Available exclusively on Quest 2


Blaston is a 1v1 dueling game where players stand on platforms and shoot at each other with a variety of different weapons. You have to use your body to dodge and aim your shots well, and whoever does the most damage wins.

This is another VR game that doesn't have a pancake equivalent - it's an only-on-VR experience. The esports scene is growing all the time, so if you prefer 1v1-style games, Blaston is a good choice.

Key features:

- Archery soccer
- Built with mechanics similar to Rocket League
- Developing esports scene
- Available on both standalone and PCVR

Population: One

If you're a fan of battle royale games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Fortnite, Population: One is right up your alley. It brings all the best features of those pancake games and combines them with unique VR features like extending your arms to fly across the map.

Key features:

- Battle royale
- Built with mechanics similar to Warzone and Fortnite
- Available on both standalone and PCVR

VR Esports Leagues

Once you have a VR esports game (or multiple games) that you're interested in, you need to pick a league to compete within. My personal recommendation, if you play VAIL or Onward at least, is to pick the IVRL.

The IVRL brings the biggest prize pools, the most exciting events, and a level of infrastructure that you won't find anywhere else in the VR esports world.

Here's a trailer for the IVRL VAIL Launch Season Tournament, which will give you a taste of what to expect:

All that being said, the IVRL doesn't host every game and you may want to test your options elsewhere. Our focus is quality over quantity, and that means we don't cater to every taste. For example, if you want to play Contractors or Pavlov, you're better off going to another league like the VREL or the VRML.

What matters more than anything is that you come join the scene now, regardless of the league you choose - and you don't have to choose just one! There are lots of players who play in multiple leagues, as it allows them to experiment and figure out which games they're best at.

If you'd like to see all the best options, I've built a directory of VR esports leagues that you can browse and then make a decision for yourself.