Esports by definition, consists of competitive video gaming. Despite being a relatively new concept, Esports have risen to become a hugely popular phenomenon, attracting arenas full of fans cheering the names of their favourites as they contest on a stage for prizes that can be millions of dollars.
Esports carry a few advantages over traditional sports: firstly, they’re far more accessible, as all you need to get involved is an internet-connected device and you can compete online from the comfort of the home. Furthermore, cheating and fouls will occur far less as player’s input is limited by the game itself, providing a far fairer landscape.
It’s easy to dismiss esports as a niche interest; the term “professional gamer” does have negative connotations to anyone not acquainted with the topic. It’s in part due to these connotations that has led esports to grow up primarily in parallel with the growth of the internet – streaming sites such as Twitch and YouTube remain the primary source of viewership for the majority. As a result, esports has never been able to break into the mainstream consciousness (particularly the older generation), despite how widespread video games have become. You’re unlikely to find many people aged less than 25 that don’t play games, even if it’s just on mobile or things such as party games on consoles. Mario Kart never got boring, did it?
So why should you care? The answer is the same reasons we love the other sports that we do. It’s the culture, the teams, the storylines. It’s the rivalry, the arenas, the monumental moments never to be recreated again.
I attended an event in London back in 2018. Fans filled out the 10,000-capacity arena, donned in jerseys of their favourite teams. I remember the chants, the last-second miracles, and the feeling of being surrounded by people who all wanted nothing more than to watch the best people in the world play a game they’ve dedicated their lives to.
It’s moments like the grand finals of the Boston Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major 2018. The heavy favourites, team “Faze Clan” were one point away from the trophy only for the underdog team “Cloud9” to rise from nowhere and deny them every opportunity, overcoming all odds and expectations. It’s about League of Legends player “XPeke” sneaking behind enemy lines to destroy the enemy base, dancing around shots and dodging players, to win them the game from nowhere, utterly embarrassing the enemy team. It’s moments like in fighting-game tournament Evolution Championship Series (or EVO 2004, Street Fighter player “Daigo” was down to 1 health point, one hit and he’s out the game. The enemy uses a special ability to attack continuously, multiple times a second for a few seconds, and it’s looking dire. Contrary to all expectations, “Daigo” gets millisecond perfect inputs to block every single attack – 15 in a row – to win out the game himself, and the crowd explodes into cheers.
Esports is a culture. To play games at that high a level requires a mastery only gained by tens of thousands of hours. It should be treated with such respect as anything else that requires that level of talent.