Sport is defined as a competitive physical activity which involves organised participation of individuals. Teams showcase and enhance their physical and mental abilities. In the current age of digitalisation, there exists a virtual world of everything. Understandably, not everyone has the ability to go out and compete in physical sports. But that does not limit their attraction towards games. Definitely, everyone craves for the proud feeling that comes after a good-fought victory. And the virtual world provides the same opportunity to everyone, literally on the fingertips. Esports is the virtual brand of the physical sporting world, which in fact is more versatile and open in terms of opportunities and scale of entertainment.
To put it simply, Esports or electronic sports are video games, between multiple players or teams. The video gaming world has grown largely since its inception in the early 1970s. From just amateurs playing cool video games for fun to professional esports subculture in international tournaments with a viewership of more than 454 million and revenues over US$1 billion, Esports has indeed become bigger than just video. Let us get into a bit detail of different tournaments and cultures which are at rising in the Esports.
Esports Games and Economies
The most popular Esports genre are first-person shooter (FPS), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), battle royale games, digital collectable card games, fighting, and real-time strategy (RTS). Dota 2, League of Legends, and Smite are popular MOBA titles and games such as Counter-Strike and Call of Duty are FPS titles. There are many such tournaments and championships organised around the world for players to compete at the highest level. Prize money is often provided by the developers but can also come from sponsorships and endorsements.
Some organisers like League of Legends Champions Korea offer guaranteed salaries for players. Besides this, many players prefer online streaming too. This is because of marginal higher profits in some cases and independence. The International tournament prize money for the winners are as high as US$10 million. But weaker teams lack financial stability and usually break up after failing.
In 2015, the global Esports industry generated around US$748.8 million in revenue. Asia is the leading Esports market with over $321 million ahead of North America and Europe. Let us get into details of how this culture started and developed over the years.
History and evolution
It all started in October 1972 when the Stanford University organised a video game competition of Spacewar for a grand prize of a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone. A similar championship in 1980, Atari attracted more than 10,000 participants across the US, establishing competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby.
By the 1980s, video gamers and Esports tournaments started featuring in popular newspapers and magazines including Life and Time. Some Esports events were also televised in this period such as the American show Starcade (1982-1984), That’s Incredible!, etc.
Till now the video games relied on high scores to decide the best player. This changed with Street Fighter II, in which players could challenge each other directly, “one-on-one.” This paved the way for competitive multiplayer gaming in modern action games.
In the 1990s, Nintendo World Championships toured across the United States and citizens from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Chile were eligible to compete. The 1994 championships also included NBA Jam and Virtua Racing. A lot of games benefited from increasing internet connectivity like the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), QuakeCon, and the Professional Gamers League. Counter-Strike series, Quake series, and Warcraft are some PC games at the CPL.
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The 1997 Asian financial crisis led to the mass building of broadband internet networks in South Korea which boosted the growth of Esports in the region. In fact, in the year 2000, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established the Korean Esports Association to promote and regulate Esports in the country.
Esports grew tremendously in the 2010s with a large increase in both prize money and viewership. Many successful tournaments were founded from 2000-2010, including the Intel Extreme Masters, World Cyber Games, and Major League Gaming.
Recently, the Blizzard Entertainment released the Overwatch League featuring twelve teams starting in 2018. Players get contracts with guaranteed annual salary and benefits, along with a share in the team’s revenue and prize earnings. The first season offered a total prize pool of US$3.5 million with US$1 million to the team winning in post-season.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) to also created the NBA 2K League with the NBA 2K game series. NBA 2k league is the first Esports league under a professional sports league. Besides this, EA Sports and Major League Soccer (MLS) has the eMLS, EA’s FIFA 18 league.
While the experience of the player in the game is the priority, many successful Esports games are purposely designed to be played professionally. To support the level of competition, developers add dedicated features and make design compromises.
Dedicated observing features providing a highly modified interface and access to additional information to the spectators. It is generally delayed a bit to avoid the possibility of competitive advantage to any team.
High-quality connectivity through the internet allows players miles apart to set up real-time connections across the world.
Popular competitions over LAN(Local Area Network) for better quality and lesser lag. In fact, the physical presence of competitors helps create a more social atmosphere at LAN events.
Esports in the Olympics
The first notable multi-sport competition to include Esports as an official medal event is the 2007 Asian Indoor Games. Besides this, the Asian Games will also include Esports as a medal event at the 2022 edition. This comes after being present as exhibition events at the 2018 Asian Games. This brings attention to the biggest sporting stage in the world, The Olympics.
In October 2017, a summit held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized the growing popularity of Esports. But to be a part of the Olympics with traditional sports would require fitting with its rules and regulations. The present violent gameplay and lack of a global sanctioning body for Esports are stands in the path. The committee also suggested that the IOC would be focussed on approving on games that simulate real sports, such as the NBA 2K or FIFA series.
The 2024 Summer Olympics Paris organizing committee were also in discussions with the IOC and the various professional Esports organizations. They even cited the need for the same to keep the Olympics relevant to upcoming generations. Although, the Esports are premature for the 2024 Games they have not ruled out other activities during the Games.