As you might have guessed, eSports means electronic sports. However, it has nothing to do with physical sports. Electronic sports is the term for competitive gaming. The eSports arena and audience base is expanding rapidly in these recent years. Here’s an amazing statistic: over 70 million people worldwide watched over 2.4 billion hours of eSports which for the first time in 2013, exceeded television viewing hours. Like traditional sports, the eSports realm has many different types of video game genres like real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena.
The earliest e-sport competitions happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Space Invaders, the classic shooter where you move a laser cannon across the bottom of the screen and shoot endless rows of descending aliens. Gradually, the e-sport industry started gaining popularity when more and more games had internet connectivity. Viewership and prize money increased drastically over the last 15 years. The championship prize pools would reach up to millions of dollars and viewership increased to over tens of millions.
This brings us to the latest and most popular game, League of Legends. Started back in 2009, it is a multiplayer online battle arena with two teams of five people battling it out. The main objective of the game is to destroy the enemy’s base. Each player gets to choose a character of his/her choice with unique fighting abilities. In a large scale map, players need to coordinate their decisions with each other and work together to achieve objectives. The right decisions and precise reflexes will bring about the satisfying victory.
Let’s put eSports into perspective with the other sports. The League of Legends championship alone had around 30 million overall viewers while the Super Bowl had around 100 million watchers. This year was also the first time that ESPN provided coverage for the League of Legends championship. eSports is slowly getting incorporated into mainstream media and television. As a matter of fact, there are television channels in South Korea that are dedicated to eSports streaming 24/7. Although the average viewer’s age is around 18-24, more and more people are being exposed to this online, fast-paced culture. It is no longer about a bunch of kids playing on their computers anymore. There are dedicated teams where players get trained professionally as a full-time gamer along with large corporate sponsorships. Recently, Robert Morris University in Illinois is offering scholarships for students who competitively play League of Legends. They wanted to give credit to those who don’t necessarily play traditional sports. Believe it or not, competitive gaming is becoming a real occupation, and the gaming industry is growing beyond our imaginations. Experts estimated that by 2018, viewership of eSports will exceed that of traditional sports in the world.
You may ask, “What are the benefits to playing so much video games?” Like traditional sports, eSports require intense mental prowess and teamwork. Especially in strategic games such as League of Legends, it trains a player’s brain flexibility and cognitive reflexes. Not only are video games beneficial for the youth, they also slow the degree of mental decay with the elderly. Video games can also distract the mind and provide effective stress and pain relief. I’m not trying to encourage people to play video games addictively, but a daily dosage of video games has more pros than cons. As Einstein noted: