Mrs. Mulligan English 10 Honors 20 March 2013 Competitive Gaming Competitive gaming, also known as e-sports, is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. With huge events and tournaments that are watched by millions of passionate fans, many people are beginning to question whether playing video games can be considered a real sport. Even though e-sports may not be as physically demanding as traditional sports like football and basketball, the structure, strong fan base and the requirements to seriously contend in the competitive gaming scene legitimize it as a “real” sport.
It is important to gain an understanding of the complete picture of e-sports before classifying it as a real sport. Competitive gaming’s origins can be traced all the way back to the “golden age of gaming” in the 1980s, where players battled for the highest scores in games like “Pac-man” and “Donkey Kong” in local arcades around the world (“History of Competitive Gaming”). This is the earliest piece of evidence that displays how video games produced an environment where competitiveness and recreation went hand-in-hand. In more recent years the popularity of video games has rapidly increased.
For instance, a study in 2008 revealed that nearly 60 percent of the United States population played video games online; a statistic that continues to grow as technology and gaming become more and more accepted by society (Antonucci). With video games being played on a much larger scale due to bolstered availability, the competitive atmosphere that originated in the 80s evolved into what today is called e-sports. In modern times it has often been debated whether gaming is just another hobby, or if it can be considered as a viable sport and career path.
E-sports have a massive and passionate fan base that spans the entire globe. For example, the Street Fighter and Counter Strike series are played by a plethora of people in “Japan, America, and Europe” (Totilo). League of Legends, which is a multiplayer online battle arena [MOBA] title made by Riot Games, is working to put e-Sports on the same level as traditional sports. Last October, Riot held the League of Legends Season 2 World Championships, a tournament that brought the world’s best teams together for a week of intense matches.$1 million went to the overall champion, while a total of $5 million was spread out over the course of Season 2. Apart from the unprecedented cash prizes, the League of Legends tournament was able to bring in over 8 million “unique viewers” online, viewership that is greater than the National Hockey League’s (Heaven and Robinson). In South Korea individual e-sports events for the popular real-time strategy game StarCraft 2 bring in over 100,000 live attendants to go alongside huge numbers of online spectators (Robinson). On top of this, competitive gaming’s popularity is continuing to grow through 2013.
David Ting, founder of Imagine Game Network’s professional gaming league, states that online traffic for the company’s tournaments is “doubling every six months”(qtd. in Heaven). Who would’ve thought that playing video games would turn into such a loved spectator sport? Apart from the large following of people, the competitive gaming scene shares many of the same structural characteristics as traditional sports like football and baseball, as is shown by the game League of Legends. Like conventional games, League of Legends features a regular season where prominent and upcoming teams verse each other to climb the standings in their divisions.
When the regular season ends, the top teams from each division go into intense playoff series. The winners from the playoffs then compete in the World Championship tournaments mentioned earlier, in order to crown the world’s best team. League of Legends also includes an All-Star game where elite players from any team and region come together to put on a spectacular show for the fans. Just as the NFL provides fans with high quality productions like Monday Night Football, Riot Games has invested a large amount of money into hiring crews and broadcasters that can bring that type of experience to e-sports (Robinson).
Through sponsorship deals and season winnings, pro gamers usually make upwards of $100,000 per year, constituting gaming as a worthy occupation (Heaven). Other games also have this type of structure, but League of Legends is the first to put itself on a widespread global scale. With this type of structure, the only real question for this debate is if competitive gaming requires enough physical activity to be considered a sport. Many people that are against the idea of competitive gaming as a sport argue that it doesn’t require enough physical activity.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines physical as “relating to the body” (“Physical”). Since competitive gaming requires a person to have amazing hand-eye coordination and great dexterity with a keyboard or controller, there is surely a physical component when it comes to gaming (Totilo). In between the major competitions, pro gaming teams are locked in intense practice sessions, play scrimmages against other teams, and watch plenty of film to develop new strategies for the battlefield (Robinson). Professional gamers have to be physically and mentally capable to perform under the stressful conditions of the major events.
In classifying competitive gaming as a sport, one can also look at other activities that are already considered a “real” sport by the International Olympic Committee [IOC]. For instance, the IOC decided that Chess met its prerequisites, and was officially recognized as a sport in the 1990s (Totilo). Chess, which is only a mind game, goes to show how the more complex e-sports scene should be a sport. With a great structure, large fan base, and high skill requirements, competitive gaming is a sport in every way.
The only thing holding the e-sports scene back is society’s outdated mindset of what constitutes a sport. Because people have become accustomed to the idea that a sport has to have a ball and the players have to be athletic, they have failed to appreciate the physical, mental and “technical excellence” displayed by pro gamers (Totilo). Big corporations like ESPN and the IOC have to wake up and start promoting competitive gaming as a real sport. Someday, pro gamers around the world will be held in the same respect as a LeBron James or Aaron Rodgers. Works Cited Antonucci, Mike.