Whether or not eSports should be considered as a “real” sport has always been a hot topic of debate. However, eSports’ rapid rise in popularity among other “real” sports is simply indisputable. It’s growing so fast that soon it will be part of the Olympics. How did video gaming become so attractive of a career all around the world?
With even more viewers than the Super Bowl, eSports has made some impressive strides in recent years. Before the age of internet, gaming was done on cumbersome machines with very little player-to-player interaction. While the first video game ever created dates all the way back to 1947, it was the introduction of Internet in the early 2000s that kick-started the growth of eSports.
Before the early 2000s, Internet was only available to a small groups of users. But thanks to new technologies and global infrastructure, informational capabilities have exploded and blew the previous generation of computers out of the water. With it, the costs of servers and internet access has dropped so much that light speed internet is now accessible almost everywhere across the globe. In-game voice chats gave the players, for the first time, a chance to both compete and interact which each other, which improved the social aspect of gaming.
Although there are countless games that contributed to the growth of eSports, the most notable game changer would have to be Runescape, released in 2001. It introduced a new type of game, MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), popularized by World of Warcraft, which allowed strangers worldwide befriend each other on the same platform. This allowed the players to work together as one to achieve the goal of the game, which is what eSports is all about. The game itself might seem outdated, but it gave birth to some of the most popular games like League of Legends and Dota.
Online multiplayer games further ignited the inner competitiveness of gamers. Pros emerged from hundreds of hours of gaming. They showcased their skills on a streaming platform called Twitch. A good player could attract thousands of viewers, entertaining them while inspiring them to play the game by pulling off one amazing play after another. Twitch also helped to popularize games, which can not be done without the game itself. This relationship built a mutual bond between itself and other games.
Not only did Twitch influenced casual viewers, it also caught the eyes of corporations and investors that foresaw the endless potential and the colorful future of eSports. People started to view gaming not only as a hobby, but also as a career. Pros could make thousands of dollars from posting a gameplay video on YouTube and livestreaming on Twitch. Many companies watched their videos and were willing to pay those talented players to play for them and fund their competitions.
Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends, was even more generous that they also provided gamers with airline tickets, hotel rooms, infrastructures for the tournament, and huge million dollar prize pools. With such appealing offers, more competitions began to take place around the world. The competitive nature of eSports was extremely popular, and caused the amount of viewers to grow exponentially, which led to more sponsors and commercial opportunities.
Even sports teams like the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings have bought stakes in professional League of Legends teams, bringing their own analysts and trainers to improve their roster. eSports’s popularity grew to an unprecedented height, and the dream of making a living off of playing video games finally came true.
With its colossal market and an enormous community, eSports’s influence is at an all time high. Indeed, with the constant production of appealing games, new sponsors and platforms, and the rise of even more talented players, no one is certain of eSports’s future, but it sure will be an interesting one.