Over the past couple of years, we have been seeing an increase in the gaming community. Now not only do we have more and more people playing video games than we did before, but video games are even being covered by major sports media outlets. E-sports, by definition, is a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. E-sports is covered by several major sports media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, and many others as well. The fan base is ever growing and according to a Sports Illustrated article about E-sport as a competitive sport, its market is expected to grow even bigger in the future years. Yet still, the question remains, “Is E-Sports technically a sport?” I would like to argue that not only is E-Sport a new emerging sport, but it’s starting to become a major player in the sports world. We may potentially be looking at the future of sports, not only as an athletic endeavor but also as a gaming experience. I have three major reasons why I believe E-Sports will be the future of sports, but first I’ll give you a quick overview of how E-sports came about.
The history of E-sport dates to the early 1980s and 1990s. Video games were becoming more and more common in everyday life and people were becoming immersed in the world of video games. According to Tyler F.M. Edwards who wrote an article on the rise of E-Sports on adanai.com, the very first video game tournament was held by the arcade game company Atari in 1980. They were able to attract over ten thousand participants who were involved in the tournament. Many companies followed in Atari’s footsteps and started holding their own tournaments and these tournaments were really the first steps of E-sports being created. The first real E-Sports event took place in 1997. Edwards stated that “The 1990s saw the rise of PC gaming, and along with this came the first true eSports competitions. 1997’s Red Annihilation tournament for the first-person shooter (FPS) “Quake” is widely considered to have been the first real instance of eSports, drawing over 2,000 participants. The winner received a Ferrari previously owned by John Carmack, lead developer for “Quake.”
Ever since its initial birth, E-Sports has increased its value and is becoming more of a profitable industry. This leads to my first major point I want to make for E-Sports being a new emerging sport: marketability.
Today, E-Sports is now a bigtime market and major sports media outlets are looking to invest in the gaming industry. One of the major sports media outlets that are serious about investing in E-Sports is ESPN. According to John Gaudiosi, the author of a Fortune.com article on ESPN’s coverage of E-Sports, “ESPN has launched a new online vertical covering the world of competitive gaming. It’s yet another step toward mainstream acceptance of professional video gaming.” The market for E-Sports is booming. Ever since 2015, E-Sports viewership has skyrocketed. According to Newzoo.com, ever since 2015, the number of viewers has grown from 235 million to 385 million viewers. That’s a 150 million increase and ESPN is trying to jump on that ever-growing fanbase by providing coverage of the major events and competitions within the world. Now ESPN is not only broadening their demographic, but they are bringing more attention the world of E-Sports, in turn making it even more profitable.
My second argument for the consideration of E-Sports as a new emerging sport is its diversity. When I say diversity, I don’t mean just participants, but the audience as well. There aren’t many sports with such a diverse demographic like E-Sports and I would argue that in the world of sports, E-Sports is the most diverse sport out there.
The E-Sports demographic is very diverse. According to the Forbes.com article on how E-Sports is good for engagement and marketing, the percent of male and female participants in E-Sports in 2015 was 82 to 18. Today that has changed to 70 to 30 according to an article on esportsinsider.com about the hidden female demographic in E-Sports. As you can see gender neutrality is very big within the community and lots of females are immersed in the culture of E-Sports. E-Sports is also international. According to that same article on Forbes.com, after visiting several E-Sports events and polling the people who were attending, author Paul Tassi discovered that majority of these events had a 52% American population, while 45% were European. Unlike sports that are specific to one region, E-Sports merges that international gap and allows for people from all over the globe to connect with each other and engage in the experience that is E-Sports. Let me explain what I mean by this. Say you are speaking to someone who is not from the U.S. and you are talking about American football to them. The conversation isn’t going to be as smooth as you may think because American football isn’t as popular in the area that that person is from, so they would have little to no information about the game itself. But what if you were talking to them about soccer. The conversation would be more relevant to them because of the international popularity that surrounds the sport of soccer. No matter what language people are speaking, they would be able to relate to one another because soccer is a common language that they speak. E-Sports has this same effect soccer has because of its global popularity. It’s a common language spoken amongst many people.
My last argument for E-Sports being considered a new emerging sport is its close relation to other sports. Much like other sports, E-Sports requires a certain level of skill and dedication for it to be played on the professional level, but there are other aspects of the sport as well. Aspects of mental fortitude, teamwork, and of course memorization and game planning.
Most E-sports are played in teams of usually five with one sub player and one coach depending on the game being played. Each player has a position on the team and it is up to the coach to devise a strategy to enable his team to have success. Already, there are clear similarities between E-Sports and other forms of sports that are considered more traditional sports. Then comes in the actual work of each player. Since these players are professionals, they do have to work hard at their craft. They play their respective games for hours on end practicing new techniques, strategies, and game plans that they want to do at their events. It’s much like how athletes in traditional sports workout to build muscle, practice the plays that they are going to run in the game, and work on skills that will help make them better players. Then there’ the mental aspect of it. Being able to memorize certain button sequences without having to look them up, or being able to know when to use those moves in a game situation. It’s like when athletes study their film to know what plays work best against their opponents and study the other players’ tendencies so that they can counter them and capitalize on the errors of their opponents. E-Sports is even becoming a collegiate sport and players are receiving large amounts of money to go to colleges and play for their teams. According to a Huffington Post article, “Robert Morris University in Chicago handed out more than $500,000 in athletic scholarships to gamers, the first of their kind in the United States.” The gamers are receiving money from the schools just like many other student-athletes, so what is the difference between the two?
I truly believe that E-Sports can be the future of the sports industry. E-sports brings a fresh new wave of fans into the realm of the sports world and with them, they have a culture that is very similar to that of a sports culture. It’s interesting when you think about the similarities between the E-Sports world and the world of sports, and the amount of money that can be made in both areas. I understand that video games aren’t the first thing we think about when we hear sports, but I at least recommend those who don’t consider E-Sports a true sport, to view an event and view it through the lens of the players. Think about the amount of effort that goes into their game plan, think about the amount of time they spend working as a team to devise strategies that will help them succeed, and think about how these dedicated these players to their lives as professional gamers. When you take a moment and think about it, you’ll soon realize that there isn’t much of a difference between a professional athlete and a professional gamer.