eSports to get its just deserts

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Games
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I have been an avid gamer for as long as I can remember and this is the first time where it feels like gamers and gaming might be moving from the fringe, onto centre stage. Traditionally, gaming has been viewed as an activity undertaken by lonely nerdy teenage boys. However with rise of E-sports the way people view gaming is set to change. E-sports has in fact been around a while but has always been rather niche. Counterstrike of the late 90s, was one of the early incarnates of E-sports, of course this was at a time when LAN connections were all the range and the internet and reliable connections were not as widespread as they are today, this is what kept E-sports of this era firmly grounded. We now live in a time where high speed broadband is readily available to the average Joe, having an internet connection has become so pervasive in our everyday lives it is seen as an inevitable expense like gas or electricity.

Consequently there has been a huge surge in online gaming and a slew of hugely successful online titles along with it, such as the Call of Duty franchise, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and League of Legends. These games are the front-runners of modern day E-sports (perhaps with the exception of WoW which has fallen off its pedestal in the last few years but out of respect for what it has done for online gaming I have to mention it) which I believe is on the cusp of something great, aside from changing people’s perceptions of gaming, I can see E-sports being seen in the same light as conventional sport.

League of Legends which is currently the most played game in the world, with an astonishing 1 billion hours played monthly (worldwide). At the tail end of last year ended its most successful season yet gaining 32 million viewers worldwide, this excludes the packed Staples Centre of adoring fans who watched the games live. To put that into perspective, that’s more views than when Torvill and Dean won gold at the 84’ Sarajevo winter Olympics. There certainly is an audience for E-sports, and quite a substantial one at that. The live steams online were not mere streams, it was a full on broadcast complete with commentators, hosts and at the end of each game a match of the day esque analysis by people who are as knowledgeable as they are passionate about League of Legends. The South Koreans are already ahead of the West in this respect, they have TV channels dedicated to E-sports. I for one would certainly rather watch an E-sports game than the drudgery of 80s and 90s game shows shown on Challenge TV and these figures suggest I am not the only one. You prefer watching your sport in the pub I hear you say? Well Meltdown London is a place for you to do just that, they show live streams of all the major E-sport events and have regular competitions for you to get involved in and they even get well known E-sports teams paying them a visit from time to time.

The similarities don’t stop with the numbers and the style of broadcast, even the professional teams and the players’ bare resemblance to the likes of Manchester united and David Beckham. The teams all have sponsors, managers and cult followings. The pro players have spent years mastering their craft and train on a daily basis to remain at the top. Even some of the stars of E-sports share a likeness with their better known counterparts. Take Enrique Cedeno Martinez for example, He’s a Spanish League of Legends player who goes by the moniker xPeke and he’s their answer to David Beckham. He doesn’t look like the stereotypical gamer, his dashing good looks make him look more like a fragrance model than a pro gamer. He even has his own trademark much like the Beckham free-kick, the “backdoor” is something fans cry out for every time he dons his headphones and sits down at his computer.

The teams and the players that comprise them do actually make a living from doing what they do. Serious money was given away at the season three world championships in which $2million was spread amongst the top teams. Irrespective of this the teams can earn thousands by playing well at the smaller regional competitions. Aside from the money they earn playing with their team, the players themselves can earn some pretty decent money with their own streams, which charge money if you wish subscribe and they no doubt get some royalties from the adverts which appear during the stream.

Looking to the future of the sport and the next generation of players, Riot the developers of League of Legends are attempting to promote E-sports at universities by hosting collegiate championships in which the prize money is a $100,000 scholarship. In the not too distant future Riot hopes to bring something like this across the border to Europe. With the similarities ranging from the way its broadcast, to the teams and players right down to attaining scholarships for your ability, the resemblance between E-sports and conventional sport is uncanny and it is only a matter of time before E-sports gets the recognition it deserves.

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