by Joey Chuang
Millions of dollars are spent on an entire genre of sports you might have never heard of. These sports attract tens of thousands of spectators from around the world. eSports, or Electronic Sports, is basically professional video game playing. Many different video games are played, from different genres and different developers. Dedicated eSports organizations have their own sponsors and players who play these games as their job. However, eSports still don’t have a big public spotlight. “eSports? Like Wii Sports?” was the most common response I got from people including fellow AMHS students Madeline Mayans and Nicole Alvarez. Most of the general public is unknowing or even humored by the idea of people playing video games competitively as a job. However, eSports is an industry that is growing and thriving and is soon to obtain widespread attention.
A History of eSports
eSports as a concept emerged in the late 1970s during the rise of arcade games. Arcade tournaments were held for games like Space Invaders where the winner was chosen by how many points they could rack up in a single play. In the 1980’s and 1990’s larger events, such as the Nintendo World Championship, were created to not only prove one’s skill at games but also to advertise new games and spread attention to a company’s console. However, the first steps towards truly global events with the beginnings of the widespread internet. Games such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Doom, pioneered online play, but the first game to truly break out was Starcraft, a game that achieved widespread popularity in South Korea, where top players would regularly originate from. The difference between these games and arcade games like Super Mario Bros is their multiplayer, allowing players to directly compete with each other. This only became even more important in the 2000s, when more great games became popular competitively, such as Counter-Strike, Halo 3, and Super Smash Brothers Melee. As games became larger, so did the audiences and prize pools.
Today, eSports tournaments are held for different games at different times, to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans watching in arenas all over the world and through live streaming services such as Twitch. The hype, spectacle, and excitement for these tournaments far exceed most images of people playing games. Even though eSports is already a stable industry, the growth of games has ensured its future growth for years to come. As more competitively viable games come out, audiences and competitive scenes will start to spawn, and create a new eSport. Some people believe that eSports shouldn’t exist or be linked to actual sports. eSports, however, requires intense practice, skill, talent, and strategy to perfect, much like real sports. Even colleges have seen the opportunities that eSports have provided and built arenas, such as the University of Washington. [https://hub.washington.edu/hub-games/esports/]
eSports is a diverse and complicated mire of games, but some have managed to break out and become extremely popular.
Originally a modification for Warcraft (related to Blizzard’s Starcraft), Defense of the Ancients 2 holds the title for the largest prize pool in a single tournament. In The International 9, Valve (the developers of the game) raised over thirty million dollars for a single tournament. A staggering amount for “just video games”. [https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/22/20703528/dota-2-the-international-9-prize-pool-battle-pass-fortnite]
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
One of the longest-lasting games, CS:GO and its prior incarnations have become a pillar of the eSports scene. Valve (the same developers as Dota 2) hosts bi-annual tournaments involving the world’s best teams with million-dollar prize pools.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate
While not the largest eSport in terms of prizes and money, it is one of the largest and most popular. Tournaments around the globe, spanning from local competitions (like those occasionally hosted here in AMHS) to global scale tournaments such as EVO or CEO with the world’s best players in attendance. Either way, Smash Bros is a ubiquitous and popular game with its full potential not yet reached.
Despite major media silence, eSports is a bustling category of sports with teams, pro players, and massive arenas. With its birth and rise in the 20th century, eSports is continuing to grow, with some events like the Overwatch League Championships being streamed on television. From League of Legends to Super Smash Brothers, eSports is an exciting and new frontier of video games, and people playing them.