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eSport-the black sheep of the herd of sports

“He pushes the power button. The fans rev and the computer comes to life. The white of the fans and the red of the graphics card gives off a hue that lights up the room. He clicks the option to play Counter-Strike and the game loads. He is thrown into a match. The terrorists try to plant the bomb while he and the others assigned to the counter-terrorist team try to prevent the planting. This is Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and this is an e-sport.”

This is a good night for senior Jake Lamontagne because it means he has some time between the demands of homework and activities to relax and play his favorite games online. He plays about 5 hours a week.

There’re certain levels of mastery in almost anything that humans do, from the athletic and leisure activities to the most basic movements such as walking, and eating, etc. Through vigorous and consistent training, one can gain a significant amount of experience and mentality to excel at doing something. Many teens have dedicated themselves to games such as League of Legends. The average 13-year-old gamer in American teens says they game at least 6.3 hours a day. Like doing math, playing piano, taekwondo, swimming, etc (basically the high culture activities that are positively viewed by society), gaming requires proper experience and consistent practice for improvement. Most of the time, gaming is seen as an activity for nerds and society generally doesn’t see it as “cool” like other high cultures.

What is eSports?, one may ask. “eSports” is simply the short name for electronic sports. Just like footballers play football together, eSports players play video games against each other. But it doesn’t just take place inside living rooms between friends and family. Huge eSports tournaments now take place all over the world in big arenas with large crowds. Most commonly, eSports takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players and teams. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers and to name a few, Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world who also attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play live in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.

Twitch is the largest website for streaming and building up fandoms in eSports 

“Yes, I know what eSports is since I’m in the community. Personally, I play CSGO (Counter Strike Global Offense) and watch the tournaments on Twitch every now and then. I feel like, comparing the audience of traditional sports like football, basketball, etc, the audience of eSports are more diverse but less organized but the fun is the same, maybe even more,” said Tri Tran a senior who lives in Dublin, Ireland.  

“Of course there’re a lot of things that I do besides gaming, most of the time I enjoy hanging out with friends. Talking about gaming being a distraction, it’s been somewhat of a diversion for me over the past years. I still remember I used to watch a ton in my first year of high school,” Tri noted.

“I can see that it’s growing but there are still people who hate gaming in general and people who don’t consider the players athletes which is stupid in my opinion. I would tell them that you don’t assume something that you don’t have much experience in or know little about. Partially, I think it’s because there’re a lot of negative stereotypes associated with gamers. For example, gaming makes people addicted to games and they don’t exercise blah blah. Gaming can relieve stress mate, anything with moderation carries out benefits,” Tri shared.

Tri, hopeful and positive, said, “I just hope it will keep growing and make people have a better awareness of them and don’t consider them as negative stuff. And one last thing: I believe it’s the future.  Oh and eSport players stream very often which even tighten the community. It’s the frequent interaction between the streamers and viewers/fans that make the community uniquely engaging. You can never see Ronaldo or Messi play football and read your texts (donations). Fun fact: CSGO is the top eSport in Europe and Brazil. Sometimes Neymar plays CSGO with the Brazillian pros, along with FIFA as well. He sometimes posts it on Instagram. Oh the old generations are just backward looking and it’s hard to persuade them. Esports will thrive in many upcoming years regardless of their opinions on it.”

CSGO has established a fixed prize pool of a tournament set at 250,000$

Daryl T who’s a Vietnamese American born in Houston, Texas also loves t eSports. Daryl, currently a junior in high school and an overachiever in nature, plays League of Legends most often. “Yes, I do know what eSports is and play some eSports games sometimes. I play LoL (League of Legends) and little bit of Hearthstone. Since I don’t really care about being competitive in gaming, I rarely watch competitive plays on streams like most enthusiastic League players.”

“I do enjoy the game occasionally. Mostly I just have no emotion towards it as I play games to relieve stress from my school life. Beside playing League, there are a lot of other hobbies that I do. I invest in working out, tennis, guitar, reading for the majority of my time. As common as League being a distraction for most people who play the game, I’ve never really had it interfering with any aspects of my life,” Daryl said.

“Even though I’m relatively inactive in gaming, I do think that people should be able to do whatever they want. If one loves playing games and wanna bring it to the professional levels, then he/she can. Some common negative stereotypes associated with gamers are that the players are lazy, good-for-nothing, nerdy and wear thick rim glasses. I think it’s the public’s traditional view on gaming that has been holding eSport back. For those who say it’s not a real sport, well eSport players travel around with athlete visas so technically they are considered athletes,” Daryl shared.

Daryl said, “Sports and eSports are both on equal ground since they’re both in the entertainment industry that enraptures the audience into investing in them. Whichever it is, one has to go through tons of practice and training to get to the required skill levels to go pro. It’s just another opportunity for more job growth and maybe it’ll grow bigger since I can actually see it growing to be a giant industry in a near future. Personally, I don’t have much hopes for it except that the profit the competitors make do not surpass doctors since doctors perform more important duties.”

Despite the rapid growth in popularity of Fortnite in North America, LoL still tops the chart as the most played game in the world (consecutively for  almost a decade since its start on 2019)

Playing computer games for your job might sound like a dream come true to teens like Daryl and Tri – and to many people it will be! But don’t be fooled, the best eSports players have to put in a lot of hard work and training. Some players might train for up to 14 hours a day to make sure they have extremely quick reflexes and reactions. Players might make more than 300 “actions” per minute, so they have to be able to multi task extremely well. Professional gamers need to practice for hours. If there’s an update, they need to make sure they’ve mastered any changes, so that they can still be the best at it.

According to the numbers and the seemingly unstoppable cultural momentum, eSports will continue to grow as an industry — and a pastime — for the foreseeable future. By the end of 2018, 1.6 billion people will have some knowledge of eSports — that’s more than one-fifth of the entire world’s population. Its spread, both globally and culturally, is inevitable. There is no doubt that eSports are on the rise. “Traditional” sports clubs, like Premier League football teams, are starting to buy eSports players to represent them in competitions.

And NBA does the same thing with the decision of investing in eSports. With the rising in popularity, several well-known games such as NBA 2K, League of Legends, Fifa, etc have been endorsed by the giants in professional sports to represent them in the scene of eSports.

“eSports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues in terms of future opportunities.” – Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network, current Chairman of Activision – Blizzard eSports Division

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