Playing video games is sometimes viewed as immature. Many people view them as a waste of time and nothing but a childish hobby. Twenty years ago, even the idea of becoming a professional video game player was a laughable thought. Today, however, that’s completely different. The best players in the world compete in tournaments all around the globe for millions of dollars in what is known as esports.Mark Wils
on is an esports commentator that has recently taken the leap to the professional scene and gave us his thoughts on the rise of professional gaming.
Before the extreme growth of esports can be acknowledged, the concept itself has to be understood. “Esports to me would be any video game played at a competitive level. Having a professional scene helps solidify any gaming title as an esport, which these days applies to virtually any title with a multiplayer online component,” says Wilson. “[Esports have] a vibrant community of active competitive players trying to constantly better themselves at their respective title in an effort to be the best.”
To many people, the “sports” part of the term esports is all that is focused on. However, Wilson emphasizes the fact that esports and sports are not the same things, but they can be compared. In some ways, esports is better than traditional sports.
“Traditional sports are so closely tied together with physical and uncontrollable human qualities, they become exclusive. You could spend every waking hour perfecting your jump shot but if you reach your max height at 5’1″ the odds of making the NBA are against you. Furthermore, traditional sports often exclude groups of people who had the unfortunate luck of being born different or having tragic injuries that leave them with impeded use of their appendages. There are multiple examples of amputees who play actively, as well as those with vision and hearing disorders. It does not prevent them from competing in gaming like it would in traditional sports. Lastly, with traditional sports, you have an expiration date. Even if you were fortunate enough to make it to the top, you will only be capable of surviving the rigorous physical toll that your sport takes on your body for so long. Tragically, many professional athletes are left with long lasting physical trauma that affects them to their last breath. A competitive gamer’s greatest physical concern? Carpal tunnel.”
But Wilson also states that esports are similar enough to not completely alienate new viewers. “Like most sports, esports titles are often team based, with coaches and analysts helping mold players and teams into the best form of themselves. Teams will watch footage of their opponent, similar to the way a coach would in regular sports, to form counter strategies and to learn common playing styles and common mistakes. Also, there is a large, passionate audience that cannot wait for the events to start. Whether they’re watching online or in person, you can’t ignore the fact that esports is at the very least real to them. You may never understand it personally but to each person watching, it might as well be the NBA or the NFL.”
Over the past few years, the rise of esports has been exponential. Wilson describes his experiences has a veteran of the esports scene and gives a first-hand viewpoint of the dramatic change that esports has undergone.
“I knew many years ago that I wanted to work in esports, I just didn’t know how. Sadly back then, it was almost impossible to make a living off gaming. Even the most glorious of events ran off of a very small group, often volunteering because of their love for the scene. Today, you have players clearing 6 figure salaries. You have weekly tournaments filling out stadiums and arenas that require a large staff from event direction down to sanitation. You can get jobs in esports ranging from planning events to planning the meals for the staff at events. All of the jobs that were once volunteer are now full-time positions with benefits and all. Esports is a real business now, not just a hobby or something fun to do with friends.”
According to esportsearnings.com, in 2017, over $110 million worth of prize money was handed out to players who have dedicated their lives to becoming the best at their respective game. Also during 2017, competitive gaming expanded into the TV universe, with million dollar competitions coming to channels such as TBS. Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal, retired NBA players, both own professional esports teams. Overall, esports is an industry that has experienced massive growth in recent years and will continue to rise as more investors, entertainers, and viewers all become more involved in the business.