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Rise of E-sports

Updated on July 6, 2015

Is it really a sport?

I have this friend who is many years younger than me. He does not spend much time studying, and his parents are never proud of his grades. I once asked him what did he want to be. He replied, with full hope and determination, "I want to be a professional gamer". And I noticed that some of his friends share the same ambition as well. I was really surprised. I think a decade ago, no one would have gave such an answer. Guys love video games, but to make a career out of them is a whole different thing.

There has been certain online games which are termed or projected to be e-sports. This refers to online cyber games, usually one which is team-oriented. Some examples include the League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancient (DoTA), and Heroes of Newerth (HoN). Despite the name suggests, are such cyber games really a sport? Or is it just a form of labeling to create a better impression?

Traditional sports like basketball or football focuses on two aspects the body and the mind. Of course another leading aspect of sports is the excitement and bonding that it provides for fans.

1. Body

Traditional sports which involve physical fitness naturally helps a person to be healthy. A warm up training session for badminton would involve laps of jog and run for stamina, and servings to improve wrist strength. This is absent in e-sports as cyber athletes are usually only sitting most of the time, clicking their mouses and keyboards.

2. Mind

The heading may be a little confusing, but I am actually referring to sportsmanship qualities and teamwork appreciation. This is undoubtedly one of the most important factor in a team game like football or basketball. Wayne Rooney may be a good striker, but the game can never be won by him alone. Appreciating the value of each team members are honed and teams who understand this has better chance of winning. This important aspect can be found in esports as well. The importance of teamwork in games like LoL or DoTA can be said to reflect traditional sports. A mid carry (cyber game term) who is fed can never be secure the enemy's nexus. A simple homing cc (again, game term) would have easily took him/her down.

3. Reaction rates and strategy

I have no idea to drop this in the body or mind category. Perhaps this is a combination of both. This idea of reaction is quite obvious for traditional sports. Easiest example should be a reference to the task of a goal keeper. He needs to react to the ball and make sure it does not pass him. It's a split second reaction. In e-sports, this is also true. A lot of skill-shots are avoidable but it takes almost instant reaction to dodge certain spells.

Sometimes when a football team is leading by 1-0, and it is 10 minutes before the end of the match, players from the winning team may just attempt to delay time. This is strategy. This is true especially in a game between two strong teams of equal winning opportunity, or in a very important match. And if one is to watch the game plays of any e-sports, it would be apparent that different teams would have different approach or strategy in dominating the game.

Do you think e-sports is a sport?

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4. Excitement and bonding

In a football game, whenever a goal is scored, we can see fans in or outside the stadium to be cheering and celebrating. The excitement when our favourite player is on the move and finally scores is difficult to be described. And all the fans of the same team share this excitement and can relate to one another at that particular moment. I have my favourite e-sports player as well. And when I see him control his character and pawned the enemy and carried his team to victory, it's the same kind of excitement too.

Another common point between traditional sports and e-sports is that players in both fields are able to perform so well that amazes the audience. When they play, it's just like magic! They impresses us and sometimes we strive to be like them.

In short, I think it is not necessary for physical fitness to be a necessary requirement before a certain even can be called "sports". I think the values and excitement present in LoL or HoN suffice to qualify themselves to be termed sports too.

Can cyber athletes earn?

I think they do. I have no idea how much they earn exactly, but I think they do. Certain fans estimated that pro players can earn up to $200,000 -$250,000 per year. This amount come from multiple streams of income. Similar to football, there are many leagues that players can compete in and earn cash prizes. Also, they may establish their own websites to provide tips or tutorials for those interested. Professional players can earn via Youtube or as well, where they have their own channels allowing fans to stream in to witness their games.

A high income is usually only achievable when the player has some reputation or impression. Otherwise, it is unlikely for fans to follow their social media channels, and they might not win prizes in tournaments too.

Before a pro player reaches where he is, it is usually a long struggle met by many disapproval by their parents. And when they are still climbing the ladder of fame and skills, they have limited finance to support themselves. If interested, readers can view a documentary featuring their struggles here.


It's happening

I have a vision. The normal sight for a 35-year old and above adult to be in a stadium is usually in support of traditional sports. But 10-20 years later, those e-sports fans could change this. It is possible to spot a large group of 40-year olds to be in a stadium supporting and cheering for DoTA or LoL instead.

Just last year, the League of Legends World Finals have attracted 60,000 spectators in the stadium as well as a large crowd from global streaming. And as fans base continue to grow, showed that there are more than 100 million viewers who stream in for e-sports game play every month.

With regards to corporate development, e-sports is increasingly having a huge impact. Fairly recently, Sweedish media company Modern Times Group just bought a majority stake in one of the largest e-sports companies in the world. A 74% share was bought over for $87 million.

Lastly, esports tournament are treated very seriously. For example, there was even a grand opening ceremony for the League of Legends 2014 World Championship in Seoul, Korea - the video is included below. So, I really think E-sports is on the rise. Do you see the future of e-sports?

Do you think e-sports would be as popular as football?

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League of Legends World Championship 2014 Opening Ceremony


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