With DOTA 2′s Ten Million Dollar International Culminating Last Weekend, It’s Time to Really Look at How We See eSports.
Whenever someone mentions the idea of eSports, three sorts of people reveal themselves. The first group are the ones who, for some reason, find it personally offensive.
The idea that competitive games even skulk in the shadow of traditional sports is anathema. Secondly, usually the largest collection, are the people who like games but find the concept a bit far fetched. Fortunately, they are often too polite to put it under too much scrutiny. Lastly, there is always a handful who think it’s pretty damn cool.
Recent advances in networking technology and Internet capability built into consoles opened up a realm of possibilities that really pushed what multiplayer games could achieve. It opened up markets that were previously inaccessible.
The ability of gamers to now reliably play online created communities that all but did away with the LAN party culture. Australian gamers especially enjoyed this advent as they could now join in with the larger communities. Indeed, this really set the scene for the resultant spread in eSport culture.
Even Pokemon is on board the wave of competition that global multiplayer creates with its Video Game Championship now reaching Australian shores.
Although competitive gaming isn’t exactly a new thing, it’s only now reaching the stage where talented players can bank on earning a decent living playing the game they love. Fighting games, shooters, and some RTS (namely Starcraft) have long enjoyed success through institutions such as Dreamhack, EVO, Apex, and MLG.
Now, however, we are seeing the effects of a wave of games tailored for eSports.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), evolving from the original Defence of the Ancients, have exploded in popularity in the last five years.
All major contenders (DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Heroes of Newerth) have seen flourishing competitive scenes at some point throughout their lifetime. It is this popularity and these competitive scenes that have marched eSports out of the shadows and really made moves to granting it the same credence as traditional sports.
League of Legends has been the real pioneer of the group. Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about the game, what Riot has done to further this cause cannot be understated. Through a combination of viewership, player numbers, and negotiations from Riot, League of Legends is now considered an official sport by the United States Government.
What this means is that players can now get athletic visas to make travelling into the United States easier. It’s even gone so far that certain colleges are now adding League of Legends to their list of sporting teams. This will mean that some talented gamers will be able to earn scholarships to continue their education.
Not everything is going the way of League, however, DOTA 2‘s annual championship, The International, will have its climactic moments broadcast on ESPN.
What does this increasing parity between eSports and traditional sports actually mean? Well in the near future pro gamer may become a viable career choice. It also opens up job paths that surround the eSport players: commentators, managers, and event and planning staff.
I’ve seen a lot of posts that take the more facetious approach with bylines suggesting this news is a ‘screw you’ to anything that comes between young gamers and their passion. eSports is a burgeoning industry but it needs time to grow.
As someone who spent hours fighting anyone that would play in Virtua Fighter at Sega world London when I was six, the massive strides that developers are now taking towards making professional gaming a reality are very exciting. The notion of people earning a living by playing video games will indeed be fun to see.