eSports – Rise of an Era (Part 1)
Back in the day, when it came to entertainment, we turned to a few things, such as theater, music, and social engagements. Though one thing that has stood the test of time, through thousands of years, is sports. Nothing brings people together more than rooting for your favorite team, or engaging in activities that revolve around your favorite sport, or sports team. Sports are the great equalizers of our past generations. When two people engage in a conversation, sports is often a neutral, easy topic to ease into that conversation with – unless, of course, you’re like me, and don’t watch any sports at all. Well, that is, regular sports.
eSports are slowly climbing into the pantheons of the sports entertainment industry. Controversially, a lot of people would argue eSports are not actually a sport at all – why would you compare someone who physically pushes themselves to the limit, and trains non-stop to be the amazing athlete they can be, vs. a nerd in a computer chair. I understand both sides of the argument, and quite literally sports are defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” – but how does a person in a computer chair, playing a video game, manage to be called an athlete? That’s what we’re here to blog abou0t.
Video courtesy of MajorLeagueGaming
eSports are going to be my next series post, as I dig into the depths of the phenomenon, and drill into what it takes to become a part of this, what it looks like to be inside of it, the rise of its’ popularity, and ultimately, what the future holds for sports in general (Hint, eSports are about to take over, it just might be another 10 or 20 years.)
Imagine for a moment, 20 or 30 years from now, you are at a social gathering of any type – you walk up to someone and begin talking about how awesome it was to see the Philadelphia Fusions get their butts spanked by the London Spitfires – and man did you see how ‘Profit’ destroyed that team. You’re sitting in your chair, going, “What the hell are you talking about?” – Guess what? That’s already a thing, and in the future, it’s going to be –the– thing. Don’t believe me? Well enjoy the wild ride into the world of eSports and its athletes.
It’s history lesson time!
The first eSports event ever recorded was in 1972 at Stamford University. Students gathered and competed in a game called Spacewar, only for the winner to receive a year subscription to “Rolling Stones” magazine. 8 years later, Atari hosted the first large-scale tournament known, at 10,000 participants, over a little game called “Space Invaders.” This tournament cemented competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby, and would form the very pillars of the video game industry you see today.
Somewhere around the 1990s, professional gaming leagues began to form, CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League), QuakeCon, and the Professional Gamers League just to name a few. These leagues were generally formed around PC Gaming at the time, including games such as Counter-Strike, Quake, and Warcraft, but even these leagues were not “big time” so to speak.
Around 1997 something happened though, that would change eSports forever – The Asian Financial Crisis. Sometime in July 1997, Asia was gripped by the crisis, and plummeted into a state of economic disaster, and it was during this time South Korean unemployment was at an all time high, and thus entered the age of eSports. With higher unemployment rates, South Koreans were at home, using the computer much more than previous due to all the extra free time, and it’s through this use that eSports began to mold itself into a major entertainment industry. Following the financial crisis, South Korea saw a rise in what we call “PC/LAN Cafes” which is basically a public place like say, a library, where people who come, and pay a set amount of money to use a computer there, to play games.
eSports are so popular in South Korea, in 2000, a branch of government, named the “Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism” formed an association named KeSPA (Korean eSports Association). This Association promotes and regulates eSports in the entire country.
Sometime around 2002 a little game by the name of “Starcraft” began to gain traction as an eSports phenomenon. Teams began forming under popular South Korean brands such as Samsung, SK Telecom, and Korea Telecom. It is this hierarchy that is still used to this day in current eSports. While the industry has changed with the gaming world, the way teams, and sponsorship work has not evolved a whole lot.
Today there are tournaments for games such as Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2), that have prize pools of $25,532,177, or the most well known eSport around now, League of Legends, boasting a prize pool for their World Championship at around $5 Million. There are dozens of gaming tournaments now, boasting multi-million dollar rewards to winners, and runner-ups alike, on top of an acceptable salary.
Video courtesy of dotavru
At a glance, teams within a competitive gaming circuit generally make a salary, and members of those teams each are paid based on that. We will cover all this in more depth soon, but or now, understand, there are people out there, playing competitively in a gaming medium, doing what they love, and living from it.
Coming up in the next blog post we will talk about the eSports industry through a particular game, and analyze the details piece by piece. I will also walk you through why this entertainment medium is going to take over the entire industry, and why we, as parents, have to stop looking at gaming as a “waste of time,” and more as a potential career opportunity than ever before.
Until next time,