What is Esports?
Have you ever asked yourself: “What is this Esports??? Can we even consider this new predominantly teenage ‘trend’ a real sport? Why are kids being paid millions of dollars a year just to sit around and play video games?”
Well in its purest form, Esports (which stands for Electronic Sports) is a form of multiplayer competition within video games. Esports is a subculture within the video game industry, where the best gamers are watched by millions of their fans to compete in strategic solo or team based games in order to win. Popular games include fighting games such as Injustice 2, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat as well as first person shooters (Call of Duty, Counter Strike etc.) and strategy games like League of Legends and Dota 2. These games are played and spectated in the largest arenas across the world, where the prize money awarded are in the millions of dollars to the winning team. The growth of Esports is ever increasing. Just last year in 2017, 58 million viewers around the world tuned in the watch the League of Legends World’s 2017 Final. There is a definite cultural growth of video games in the ever evolving entertainment industry.
So what is a sport? A sport is considered ‘an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against one another for the entertainment of spectators’ ~ Oxford Online Dictionary. Esports is redefining this definition where the players use very little physical exertion, but all of their skill and common intelligence in order to outplay their competition. In past generations, with limited technology, we only had our physical ability at our disposal to play a sport (and this is where I personally think the definition of a sport stems from).
Within the 21st century we have our mental capacity – coupled with quick time reflexes – to compete on a level playing field within a virtual world. Many of these athletes train for 12-16 hours a day, working on their reflexes and overall gameplay craft in order to have the edge over their opponents. When you watch these games and understand the sheer pressure and clutch split second moments that leads to victory or defeat, you understand the level of competition pro-gamers are playing at. In recent years, Esports teams have sold out stadiums, sold merchandise (like jerseys, hats, hoodies, posters etc.) and attained sponsorships from notable brands such as Coke, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Intel etc. much like regular sports have. Many broadcasts of these tournaments are being shown on major sporting networks such as ESPN and have been getting massive ratings, to the point where in recent years one Esports tournament final beat out the viewership of the NBA finals. This to me, sounds like a sporting event to be taken seriously.
So is it a real sport? That question is still up for debate. It is hard to argue against the traditional definition of what was decided centuries ago of what a sport is. But then again, who determines where the world is really heading in the future? The acceptance of our current generation toward Esports and our current cultural development will inevitably dictate to where society is going. And that has to, at the very least, be respected.