The Rise of Esports

People often come together to watch others play games. Those games often consist of teams wherein all players have a different role, but work together towards a common goal. Viewers usually hope that one of the sides of the game does better than the other side (we call this fandom) and even place bets on the outcome of the game. People cry if their team loses. People cry if their team wins. Sounds familiar?

You might immediately think of the recent FIFA Football World Cup or any number of other popular sporting events, but I actually want to shed some light on electronic sports (or esports), a fast growing market of sports entertainment.

Magnitude of Esports

Esports are big. Very big! They used to be something that only appealed to a niche market of serious gamers, but have since grown to a global economy of over $12bn. Worldwide, around 400 million people play online multiplayer games, compared to the 500 million or so people that follow formula 1 (the second largest sport in the world). In 2013, 71 million people watched competitive gaming. That is more than the entire population of the UK! In terms of numbers, the most popular esports games are Dota 2, League of Legends, Starcraft 2 and World of WarcraftLeague of Legends has around 32 million active subscribers, while World of Warcraft, a game with payed subscriptions, has around 10 million.

Recently, Dota 2 has shocked the esports community by announcing that the prize pool for the 2014 Dota 2 International(basically the Dota 2 world cup) is more than $10m (most of which were contributed by fans). This is the largest prize pool for any esports event ever, and can be compared to the Masters, one of the world’s top Golf events, carrying a prize pool of $9m.

E”sports”?

If you are not into gaming at all, you probably think that applying the term ‘sports’ to online gaming is ridiculous. However, esports have all the characteristics of other sports events.

First, the players are athletes in their own rights, given that they can perform well beyond the human average. In Korea, special training barracks have been constructed, where teams would practice Starcraft everyday for eight to ten hours. This led some players to average 300 to 400 actions per minute. That is definitely above the human average, which is around 30-50 actions per minute. You might think these guys can’t possibly make a career out of gaming, but you’d be wrong. In South Korea, Starcraft is a recognized career option with some of the top players making six-figure salaries.

Second, also from the viewer perspective it fits in the categories of a sports event. Esports has all the aspects that make other sport events fun to watch and more. During professional live esports games, multiple streams of commentators are offered at the same time (for different languages, one for beginners, etc.) and the action is literally all over the map. So much action is taking place that there is rarely time for in-game replays; there is simply no downtime like in rugby or football. Instead, the commentators often struggle to keep up as the action only stops when the game ends.

Third, some fans even take it a step further and bet their money on the outcome of matches. This is also very common in the world of professional gaming. There are many websites (like pinnaclesports.com) that allow you to place bets on various types of games.

Finally, from a Christian perspective, esports have the same positive characteristic as other sports. They unite people with a common goal, and they celebrate excellence and creative ability, character traits that are inherent to God.

Many sports fans would be surprised and entertained if they gave professional gaming a chance. The matches are highly entertaining and packed with action. For more information on the biggest gaming event in the history of esports, head over to dota2.com and see what it is all about.