What is E-Sports?
By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Journalist
Electronic sports also mostly known as e-sports is a term used to describe the competitive sport of playing games, and it is becoming a world known phenomenon. In countries such as South Korea e-sports has been quite known for a while and like most of you know the Starcraft franchise has been a life changing game for many Koreans. The first Starcraft game changed the country and people were able to play games instead of playing normal sports. At one point Starcraft crossed the threshold and become a television phenomenon as people started tuning in around the nation to view a serious online sporting event. For a long period of time Starcraft was the only game able to claim such a position as the very idea of competitive online sports was still developing along with the online gaming industry itself. However once games like Guild Wars began holding international tournaments, it became clear that this was going to be a big deal.
Exhibit A: Kind of a Big Deal
Some of you from our forums might know my background with competitive games; I have been a big fan of FPS games since I was a little boy playing my first game of. I have always been a fan of the Call of Duty series on the PC and have played it since the first version was launched. I have been playing Call of Duty 4 competitively and have attended several LANs (A gaming event in which multiple players connect directly between computers for minimal latency issues) where I placed quite high in ranks with my team.
Currently I have made the transition to RTS games. I have always liked Age of Empires 2 and played it casually when I was small but my games would always take days finish because I loved building up my empire and just defending incoming armies. However the lure of Starcraft was greater than ever with the release of its sequel, and I became enamored at the thought of competing professionally. In fact I just competed at a LAN in the Netherlands on the 21st of October with over 800 people to give you an idea of how large these events can be.
Do you remember the time where you went to college and you started up a small LAN with just a few people to play games such as Counter Strike, Call of Duty and Starcraft (or even Mario Kart for the more old schoolers). You did it mostly for fun and just to have a laugh with some friends. Nowadays however the LANs are getting more serious and the rise of competitive gaming is the focal point of this growth. This is particularly the case due to the introduction of publisher sponsored prize money that is sizable enough that professional gamers have begun living off of their earnings.
As I am writing this, MLG Orlando is currently on its final day of the tournament and the last matches are being played. MLG or Major League Gaming is one of the biggest organizers of LAN events in the US. They are hosting 6 lans currently in 2011 and each one of them has been a great success among the participants and visitors. The three games that are played currently at MLG Orlando are Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Starcraft 2. As I’m a PC guy I am focusing on the Starcraft 2 scene in which the MLG is paying out $14,000 among the top 8 players. The prize money announced for these games is enough to lure people from around the world to compete, and even now people such as ColbyCheeze are being hired out to spectate matches and provide commentary for the audience. Besides the MLG, the ESL and Europe’s Dreamhack are also famous for hosting these big money tournaments.
Organizations and Sponsors
Now the most important part of sports is getting fans to raise the banner of their favorite team in a competition. Without famous teams rising from the masses to rally spectators under them, sporting ventures are not viable. Various organizations such as the Taiwanese company Gamania have begun recruiting top players from around the world to represent them in worldwide tournaments. Organizations like Gamania pay these players a salary so that they can donate their full energy towards improving their skills at various games for upcoming competitions. Rumor has it that team Evil Geniuses is paying your star player Hulk 6 figure digits just to compete in gaming competitions!
Just as important as the organizers though are the sponsors. These sponsors invest a lot of money into big organizations to promote their brand because let’s face it, advertising your upcoming game at the Super Bowl isn’t exactly hitting our pinnacle target audience of your games, nor is it cost effective. As such gamer centric brands like Red Bull, Intel, AMD are investing large sums in getting their name out at all the major events.
I will continue to seek out my name in competitive gaming because it brings me a passion that nothing else compares to. It brings all the nerds together to make a statement that the virtual world is fast becoming on par with some of the major sporting leagues of the world. I hope that countries around the world will soon see the profits that can be made from these events and give them further support to quicken the proliferation of them worldwide. Maybe one day my kids will be able to take competitive gaming in school instead of physical education!