The eSport PhenomenonFeb 22, 2015 | 1 Votes
Electronic sport (also known by its many variants, like esport, eSport or E-Sport), or competitive gaming, has taken the world by storm in recent years. Gaming tournaments, albeit amateur ones, had been organized in the past for fighting games like Tekken, but now, eSport tournaments often involve up to tens to hundreds of thousands of players worldwide!
The tournaments are no longer limited to fighting games as well, and now range from the massively popular MOBA to MMO shooters, from PvP tournaments in MMORPGs to MMORTS. In fact, there are even teams of and individual professional players, who do nothing else but to play games (training) all day, every day; and they are as well-respected and admired as athletes and football stars!
Some them include Vici Gaming (DotA 2), Team Liquid (DotA 2), Team Dignitas (multiple games), Lee "Jaedong" Jae Dong (Starcraft: Brood War), Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel (Painkiller) and of course, the team from China that brought home the 5 million USD cash prize from the 2014 International DotA 2 Championship (known only as “The International”) – Newbee. I’m sure you’ve heard of these names… surely! There are also associations established primarily to regulate the many eSport teams and events that occur in a country. Some examples include the United Kingdom eSports Association, the Korean eSports Association, and the International eSport Federation.
As a professional gamer (pro-gamer for short), these players do not only earn their living by cashing in on tournaments, they are also the face of some of the most elite gaming products around, such as Razer or Alienware. Besides gaming hardware, energy drinks like Monster had also sponsored several eSport teams. Team sponsorship is a great way for pro-gamers to gain money to cover travel expenses to tournaments as well as to buy better gaming hardware.
In fact, this eSport phenomenon is so huge that it prompted the emergence of online video streaming platforms, such as Twitch, Major League Gaming and Hitbox. This is not exactly surprisingly considering that, reportedly, there are 70 million gamers who watch and follow eSport events over the internet worldwide! Twitch, in particular, has even taken over the main role of broadcasting popular matches live to more audience than you can fill a stadium with, and best of all, you can connect and view the match from anywhere around the globe… as long as you have a stable and fast internet connection, of course! The popular game video streaming service has reported a shocking 100 million unique viewers per month with a peak of concurrent viewers numbered at around 1 million!
While gaming streams are getting increasingly popular, pro-gamers (and even regular gamers) are jumping in on board due to the additional revenue they can earn from adverts, donations as well as product placements, if they are sponsored by any company. One such example is the famous Hearthstone pro-gamer, Jason “Amaz” Chan. He maintains a Twitch channel and plays live to a dedicated audience of hundreds of people 5 days a week! Most eSport games are exclusively streamed via the internet, but there was once when the finals of The International 2014 were featured in a famous sports channel, ESPN as well!
Moreover, most huge tourneys require the competitors to be physically present to ensure fair play, to prevent a number of forms of cheating, to avoid internet connectivity issues and to make the games more sociable. Thus, in order for games to be more tournament-friendly, they simply must have Local Area Network (LAN) support. This causes a change in the way developers are creating new games drastically as they are now currently trying to accommodate their players to play in huge multiplayer matches with friends as well as for potential tournaments in the future.
Not to mention, old games like the hugely popular MOBA and eSport game, League of Legends (LoL) are gradually moving in the LAN direction as well! Did you know that Riot Games (the developing company behind LoL) is developing a LAN version of the game at the moment? With any luck, the LAN version of LoL may also be released publicly after it is completed, so that you can play at home with a bunch of friends without any internet. But, don’t get your hopes too high up though!
Despite its immense popularity, eSport also has its fair share of backlash from society as quite a number of people claim that by calling competitive gaming as a sport, eSports are actually discrediting other ‘true sports’. As far as some are concerned, eSports are merely gaming competitions that are participated by tens to hundreds of thousands of players. However, there are others who argue that since chess, which is supposedly a game, can be considered as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, why not gaming? Gaming may not have as long a history as chess, but it is as mentally demanding as chess.
Similarly to ‘real sports’, eSports are occasionally smeared with the news of pro-gamers who supposedly hacked or cheated their way to the top. Recently, there has been major news in the Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) professional gaming community that several teams were dealt the banhammer during a massive crackdown on players who were suspected of match-fixing and cheating. Thankfully, with proper monitoring and anti-cheating systems, the players who are cheating during tourneys can be cut down to a minimal low. In addition, with, hopefully, more women participating in eSport tournaments, the gender equality issue in eSports can be overcome as well.
eSport is, without a doubt, a rapidly growing behemoth in these current times. And yet, it is still unknown why eSport is so much popular now as compared to before… perhaps it is because more people are playing and are interested in games, even if it’s just casual gaming. Or maybe, it’s because gamers are no longer viewed as the “nerds” or “geeks” that they used to be and that gaming is becoming a relatively normal and common hobby (Did you know that the people in the 80s thought video gaming is just a fad? Well, how wrong they were!).
Needless to say, eSport is definitely a gaming phenomenon that is both unstoppable and is rapidly continuing to evolve! It is something to keep an eye on for and, if you have the skills and dedication, why not give competitive gaming a go? Who knows? You might have that untapped gaming talent that every gamer long for!