The Growing Influence of eSports and It’s Impact On The World
In a sense, eSports have been around since video games were first created. Video game tournaments on a small scale have been held with games like Pong, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders, with gamers battling for the top score. As games became more complex, gamers could begin competing directly with each other in multiplayer games like Street Fighter 2, Quake, and more. As games improved, so did the tournaments, hosted by developers, arcades, and independent companies.
As gamers became more competitive, video games have risen to the challenge, with the creation of multiplayer matchmaking so players of similar skill levels play against each other, along with leaderboards to see who is the best players. Being able to play against other great players pushed gamers to improve their skills in a constant battle to be the best.
In the early 2000’s, multiple video game leagues were founded across the globe, the most prominent at the time being Major League Gaming and World Cyber Games. These types of leagues have only grown in popularity over the years, now drawing in millions of viewers for championship tournaments with massive prize moneys. With these leagues came the birth of professional gamers and the growing popularity of eSports.
Relationship with Traditional Sports
When eSports began to pick up steam, many sports professionals weren’t accepting of it, saying it didn’t qualify as a sport because there was no “physical” element. This included athletes mocking it, coaches denying to recognize it, and notable sports commentators refusing to report on it.
As it’s became more popular though, the world of sports has begun to accept it. Sports platforms like ESPN now provide coverage of the competitive scene on their websites, with major competitions getting network coverage on some of their channels. eSports athletes get sponsors from a variety of companies, similar to traditional athletes, with sponsorships ranging from tech, apparel, and energy drinks. There is even betting on events, and fantasy leagues for MOBA games.
Also an evolving industry, eSports looks to traditional sports for guidance on how to run and manage itself. Successful head coaches learn from athletic sports and recognize their need to focus more on teamwork and trust rather than tactics in the game, leaving that to specialty coaches or the players themselves. Some coaches don’t even have background in video games, but in traditional sports like football and baseball, bringing their knowledge of leadership and teamwork to video gamers. Organizers of tournaments also look to sports for examples of how to handle issues like performance enhancing drugs and match fixing. As eSports continues to grow, they will continue to look to their more traditional counterparts for guidance.
How eSports changed South Korea
It’s a little early to say exactly how eSports will affect the world, but we can look to South Korea as an example. Video gaming is one of their most popular sports, rivaled only by baseball and soccer. South Korea’s government even formed the Korean e-Sports Association to help promote eSports as a national sport and to organize different tournaments.
eSports really caught on in South Korea about 10 years ago, with large tournaments for Starcraft and other real time strategy games being hosted and televised to the nation. Professional gaming has become part of their culture, especially with their younger generations. Similar to more traditional sports in high schools, South Korean schools host and encourage competitive video gaming, including full teams, coaches, and even cheerleaders. Colleges offer full ride scholarships and actively recruit skilled gamers. Professional gamers are viewed as national celebrities, making million dollar brand deals and showered with attention wherever they go.
How Will the Rest of the World React?
eSports is here to stay for the long haul, and despite the efforts of some, is becoming more and more recognized as an actual sport. The League of Legends 2015 World Championship finals had 30 million views and the winners won one million dollars in prize money, earning even more through brand deals and sponsorships.
As the sport grows, so will the demand for the opportunities for competitive gaming on a more amateur level. If South Korea is a model of what will happen for the rest of the world, high schools and universities will start hosting competitive video game leagues. Which, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing.
Having video game teams in high schools offers recreational options to teens who otherwise wouldn’t actively participate in schools. It allows them to work on life skills like teamwork, dedication, hard work, passion and control while doing something they love.