Why E-Sports Are Sports
A whimsical play on sounds; styles clashing, with musical wonder unhindered. For most, this would be considered the opening theme to the start up screen.
The plight of these notes are arresting, assuming a tangible, auditory embrace as the application is started, as the title screen bursts into view. The intro strikes chords instantly. The prolonged murmur of menu select options jingles with every swift movement of the mouse cursor. Call of Duty, Overwatch, Starcraft — they’re all lengthy contributors to the growing phenomenon.
In the world of competitive gaming, “e-sports”, as they are called, are gaining prominence. With rapid disparaging from the wider sports community soon following, a condemnation from the usage of the “sports” label became commonplace.
But by what means did online gaming lose the nerdy, books-to-glasses connotation and become, in essence, a position worthy of legendary, iconic athletes?
According to ESPN, it was a movement well in progress. With the massive, multi-million dollar industry relishing in the triumphant escapades of our headphone-wearing, anti-social heroes, and establishing the foundation of a hidden beast.
For instance: 205 million people had either watched or played an e-sports-related title in 2014 alone, according to Newzoo. With more than half of American e-sports fans being employed, and 33% being of the female variety.
Although the success of the e-sports community today can be seen via online mediums such as Twitch.tv, or other various streaming sites, the origins of such an expansive cultural marvel lies with the classics.
And previous generations of video game titles justified online gaming as the next big step in a growing market.
Team Fortress, Quake, DOOM — first-person shooters that revitalized their own genre, for instance, became among the first to delve into the unknown and connect the globe under the jurisdiction of unrestricted, uncensored fun.
Such games formed the caricature of the online gaming framework: as the early 2000s were pervaded with titles that hosted big guns, creative World War elements, and an outlet for the millions of adolescent teenagers that tasted freedom from their parental figures for the first time.
The hype was pronounced further with the establishment of Major League Gaming in 2002, a medium behind the gaming scene that hosts an array of tournaments across the United States — with a then strong focus on the Halo series.
Much later, with the release of contemporary Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) titles, such as League of Legends — arguably the novel achievement of the e-sports scene — tournaments became bigger; rivaling the most popular of sports events. With the 2014 League World Tournament, held at Sangem Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, garnering 40,000 seats.
Unfortunately, as it is, the current dichotomy between the sports athlete and the e-sports player falls into one category: physical activity. And such a definition, for most, becomes the defining factor if one isn’t involved in intense muscle-inducing play.
Essentially, for general consensus, the “athlete” label, as applied to e-sport champions, is null.
But such conjecture isn’t the case.
For example: in 2013, the U.S. government decided to recognize League of Legend players as athletes; even providing them with Visas to attend games in the United States. Considering them professionals of their craft.
DOTA 2, a recent evolution from the LOL formula, hosted a similar tournament in the same year — with a prize pool of nearly $11 million.
Even individual titles within the e-sports spectrum maintain their own cultural followings — no different from football or basketball — with a work ethic that falls into the quintessential maxim: practice makes perfect.
So what makes Sports, and e-sports, so different other than the platform?
Let’s not retract from the main point, though: society can learn a bit from the button mashing sensation behind the salt-spewing, rage-inducing, madness that is e-sports.