Written by: Jagat
Edited by: Lucas
Visual by: Anushka
Ten years ago, if you were told that Esports, professional competitive gaming, would one day be officially debated to be a recognized sport in the Olympics, would you believe it? Recently, there have been talks of the International Olympic Committee possibly including gaming competition in Olympic Games to come, and many are not happy.
The first known Esports event was held in 1972: a video game competition for the game Spacewar coordinated in Stanford University. Since then, it has evolved into a gargantuan industry. Along with this, through the development in the professionalism and popularity of Esports, a controversy has stirred in it being recognized as a true sport. The traditional interpretation of sports is any activity that requires a combination of physical exertion and skill to entertain a spectator audience. The physical strain element to sports is what spurs this controversy – professional gamers require minimal fitness to perform.
However, do they compensate for this with their still rigorous training? The amount of time that Esports athletes must spend to compete with the best is on par with training regimens of elite athletes. Professionals spend long hours perfecting their craft, with many spending upwards of seven hours a day on their screens, fine tuning their skills. Apoorv, a freshman who participates in amateur Esports, commented that in days leading up to competition, he spends up to 2 hours a day during weekdays and 3-4 hours on weekends teaming with friends on Fortnite. When it comes to competition, he says that performance is sporadic due to luck or a lack thereof, therefore, consistency can only come through repetition of game situations.
Another argument for ruling out Esports as a sport is the perceived lack of a tangible audience. Twenty years ago, this would have been arguable, but due to exponential growth of streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, viewership for Esports has skyrocketed. According to market researcher Newzoo, 2021’s projected audience of Esports was 495 million people, an undeniably impressive audience reach. The industry is also estimated to generate over 1 billion dollars each year, which is similar to what Major League Soccer, North America’s biggest football league, makes per season.
Sport or not, Esports has seen unprecedented growth – and in striking fashion. Many businesses and celebrities have already recognized this and have begun to invest in various Esports teams and organizations. In 2020, Tencent, a Chinese conglomerate holding company, led a 100 million dollar investment in a major Asian Esports organization, VSPN. Additionally, FaZe Clan, a California-based Esports and entertainment organization, secured a 40 million dollar investment. The industry’s philanthropy should also be commended – Twitch alone has raised more than 200 million dollars for a multitude of charities, primarily through gaming-related streams. Have we seen the same philanthropic presence in major sporting events?
Regardless of the problematic debate of Esports’ legitimacy as a sport, it has done big things for both the community and the gaming industry. With boredom through the roof in lockdown, now is the best time to look more into the topic and maybe pick up a game yourself. Who knows – this could be the start of an incredible Esports journey for you!
Duggins, Alexi. “’This Is the Future of Fundraising’: How Gaming Is Becoming the Latest Big Charity Revenue Stream.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Sept. 2020, http://www.theguardian.com/gaming-for-good/2020/sep/24/this-is-the-future-of-fundraising-how-gaming-is-becoming-the-latest-big-charity-revenue-stream.
Faraci, Derek. “Spacewar! and the Birth of Esports.” High Score Esports, High Score ESports, 10 July 2019, highscoreesports.com/2019/07/10/spacewar-and-the-birth-of-esports/.
“Revenue and Expenditure Flow.” A Match of Leagues MLS v CSL, sites.duke.edu/soccerpoliticsemmaparker/homepage/corporate-structure-revenue-and-expenditure-flow/.
“The Biggest Esports Investments of 2020.” Dexerto, 3 Jan. 2021, http://www.dexerto.com/esports/biggest-esports-investments-2020-1486273/.