One night while alone in my room, I hear a voice say “Is everybody ready? Immortals are spawning in a second”. I reply “Are we going offensive or defensive here?” and the team leader responds “We’re going offensive. They don’t seem to be super coordinated, so if we take the objective we’ll push in the lane the immortal goes to”. I reply “All right, I am on my way, so everyone get on Jaina when I decloak,” and after setting up, we go in for the engagement. The overall fight is short and lasts about fifteen seconds before I need to start thinking about my exit strategy, since my health is low and my character is rather “squishy”, a term which means that I can easily be killed. So I run back to base in order to heal up, then I meet up with the rest of my team on the bottom lane, where we push for the core and win the round. Of the four people on my team (not including myself) I only met one of them in real life, and even then, this is the first time I am playing this game with him. This is a game which involves skill, strategy, and a common language, which almost all games of this category share.
These games are called eSports, and their goal is to become the digital equivalent of what modern sports are in every sense of the word. This includes not just the strategy and teamwork needed in any sport, but also the popular culture permeation of regular sports, because unlike a regular sport, game developers have a major incentive to make their game an eSport, the ability to garner a massive following. So developers have been pushing massive amounts of funding into these events, and in some cases are crowdsourcing these finances from their own fans, with world championships having prize pools of up to $17 million. The industry is quickly growing from a multimillion dollar industry to a multibillion dollar one, and is defying conventions doing so without major television entities such as cable television, which made the sports industry into the multibillion dollar giant that it is today. This scares television executives to no end, as it should.
eSports represents a turning point in the world of entertainment as it is the first real competitive sport that is not dominated by a monopoly. There rarely is a modern sport organization that is not dominated by one entertainment network, or one league to control all teams or matchups. This could be due to this fields relative infancy, and there is much potential for change over the next two years it will take for eSports to become a billion dollar industry (Gaudiosi, 2015). For now, the world of eSports leagues, games, and news are in its incredibly early stages where the small players could compete with the big guys, and that was an opportunity I was not going to pass up. So I created my own eSports network, and I decided to call it Arena.
The name Arena came to represent multiple things to me, and for the so called “company”. Th name itself was not was a calculated decision, it was just originally because I thought it looked and sounded cool. Later on, I started to define what Arena represented, and that was the bridge between the physical and digital worlds, as we consider Arena to represent both the digital and physical locations where competition takes place. I work on the project with those I have never met in real life, and we are united by our love for competition and making something that we are proud of. It is ultimately the culture of eSports that facilitates all of this, and is something that we are all universally united by.
eSports, or competitive gaming, is nothing new, and the idea has been around for close to a decade and a half now, ever since the rise of real time strategy gaming in South Korea. While it took some time to permeate the rest of the world, we are now reaching exponential year over year growth. While the growth of an industry is one thing, this industries growth is directly tied to the induction of competitive gaming culture into more of a cultural mainstream, and with it, an entire new terminology will grow, new subcultures based on games will rise, and geek culture will no longer be a separate subset of modern American culture, but eventually has the potential to absorb itself into our culture.
To better understand how this cultural change could affect the mainstream, one must dive into the culture of eSports itself. This culture is better understood if we call it competitive gaming, as that label better represents the cultural derivative of eSports, the gaming community. Competitive gaming is currently a subset of gaming culture as a whole, but it remains a part of gaming culture. This means that competitive culture shares facets with the rest of the gaming community, however some of their terminology differs, and is evolving at a much faster rate than the rest of gaming culture, likely due to the higher level of social activity this subculture experiences. Terms such as “salty”, “nerf”, “gg”, “gank” (Winkie, 2015) and more have begun to spread to the rest of gaming culture, admittedly at a slower pace. These terms are universally accepted throughout most eSport subcultures. The main issue with eSports as of now is that it consists of these smaller pockets within pockets of the gaming community at large.
The main issue with the current state of competitive gaming culture is that it is not one unified singular culture at all, but rather a collection of smaller subcultures banded together by the concept of professional competition. The genres of these games and their audiences could not be more different, as everything from action real time strategy games, to first person shooters, to collectable card games, are considered eSports, and with them each brings their own community with their own terminology. For example, the community around the game “Super Smash Brothers” created the term “John”, meaning excuse, after a staffer at a tournament who was notorious for blaming his performance on external factors. Because of this, the term spread around the community for said game, however has not left that subculture. Because of this subcultural isolation, eSports risks not being able to push into the cultural mainstream as a collective, but rather as one or two pockets of said collective.
One of the main characteristics that makes this field so unique is how easy it is to break into as an individual, or an organization due to the both the infancy and the primary medium with which eSports as a whole are transmitted. I am of course talking about the internet, and the multitude of streams, a stream being a video that is being consumed by its audience as it is in the process of being created, or a live broadcast. These broadcasts have a sense of community, where those watching it can interact and chat in digital chat rooms, and in some cases even interact with the streamer. These same professionals stream their practice sessions as a way to make extra income between tournaments, and that provides an opportunity for those who are interested in the competitive scene behind a game to learn from one who understands it on a much higher level. In fact, just earlier I was watching a professional Halo player in order to better understand the fundamentals of said game. This gives eSports a complete edge over regular sports, where eSports has this new concept exclusively.
eSports are both breaking new ground by circumventing traditional media with their online delivery, while still trying to model their presentation off of regular sports. eSports are unique due to how they consist of smaller pockets of players that together build a larger community of active participants, and passive commentators. It is also refining how games are designed, as developers rush to try and construct the next big eSport, and players create their own communities around games that have not been supported for over a decade. At this point, discussions have moved past the arguments over whether or not eSports has any growth potential as a field, but rather how we can push this field forward from here, organizing it and legitimizing it. Celebrities such as Mark Cuban from Shark Tank and owner of the Dallas Mavericks us in support of eSports, participating in events, therefore helping to bring more legitimacy and publicity to them, stating “This is a real sport, and people are going to figure that out really, really quick” (Electronic Sports League, 2015). eSports culture is directly tied to gaming culture by the fact that is in nature an extension of gaming culture, and with the rise of eSports, we will see more of a social acceptance of gaming culture. While these new forms of competition will never directly replace sports, or even assimilate themselves within sports culture (as they are a different demographic entirely), they will do their best to imitate sports, however instead of sharing athletic prowess, they will share their love of skill based competition. Competitive gaming in the future has the potential to not only sit alongside sports entertainment, but directly impact how we enjoy entertainment as a whole by disrupting the entire entertainment industry as we know it today, and that future is happening very soon. It is unknown right now how the rise of these games will impact the global culture as a whole, but our generation has decided that these future sports are what we want to watch, and if we went this far on our own, just wait until we get support.
Electronic Sports League. “Mark Cuban on league of legends -IEM San Jose — Interview.” Youtube. N.p., 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Gaudiosi, John. “Watching other people play video games could soon be a billion dollar industry.” Fortune. N.p., 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.
Winkle, Luke. “How to talk eSports.” The Daily Dot. N.p., 4 Feb. 2025. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.