When most people think of video games, they envision sitting down in front of the TV and playing a quick game of FIFA with their friends or slaying dragons in Skyrim. Although this might have been the case 15 years ago, there has been an ever-growing side of gaming known as eSports. Throughout the years, the scene has slowly been progressing, picking up more and more fans every day, but recently it has exploded, due to its overall accessibility to the average gamer. eSports in some countries are even larger than regular sports.
Originally, when gaming started to become publicly available, it was very casual. Someone would get off work and play an hour or two of their favorite Role-Playing Game, then go back to the real world. As games became more and more immersive, they began to pick up a cult following. One of the first games that did this was DOOM, which was released in 1993. Then, in 1999, the first installment of CounterStrike was produced, originally being a mod for another game, Half-Life. At this point, people began taking games much more seriously than ever before. There were tournaments held at local video game shops that were small, but did attract a crowd.
Going into the 2000s, games like World of Warcraft, which at its peak had over 10 million players, were released. Not all players took the game that seriously, but there were a percentage of people that were able to play all of the content in the game, which is estimated to have required 8 or more hours of gaming a day. This was when video games really took a turn, and became much more of a mainstream pastime rather than an underground community.
Today, almost everyone has played video games, whether an action RPG, a first-person shooter, or a puzzle game. In other countries, video games take the crown as one of the most common pastimes, such as in China, where over 3 million people tune in every day to watch their favorite players stream themselves playing games on the internet for everyone to see. Similar to what you see in basketball or soccer, there are variety of professional and semi-pro leagues for organized teams to compete against each other for prize money, with two of the largest games to have this being League of Legends and CounterStrike. However, almost every game has some form of this, though it might not be as big.
In the past 5 years, the professional gaming scene has really taken a turn, with many companies taking notice that just as in professional sports, they can use eSports as a medium for advertising. This has really been the driving force behind the sudden growth, as there are much larger prizes to be won, which in turn attracts more and more teams and promotes a higher level of competition. In Asian countries, eSports are highly regulated, as large amounts of money are moved around from team to team, and is one of the biggest modes for advertising in places such as South Korea, where an organization known as KeSPA runs everything from setting up the tournaments to ensuring that nothing happens that are against the rules.
Many professional gamers even live together, either renting a house or having one paid for by a sponsorship. This allows the players to connect at a much deeper level, being fully immersed in the world of gaming. Many of the professional players practice 10-16 hours every day, so this also ensures that there will be no outside distractions when preparing for a large event.
Many of the events today are televised as well, either on an internet streaming site such as Twitch or on an actual TV station. Not many American stations broadcast eSports, as they do not have the same following as they do in Asian countries, but on average, there are over 1 million viewers every day for professionals streaming their play.
You might be wondering how these gamers support themselves, even if sponsors are paying for their houses, which is not always the case. Many of the players subsist solely off of prize money, which can allow them to make well into 6 figures every year. There are other ways for players to live off of gaming, with streaming being one of the largest growing forms of employment in the gaming industry. Many players will stream themselves playing, and play advertisements in between rounds or such. This may not sound very profitable, but if someone were to play 10 hours every day and average 10,000 viewers, which is not unreasonable at all, they are able to gross well over $250,000 a year.
eSports is one of the largest growing communities in the world, with more and more people joining the scene every day. People dedicate their entire lives to gaming, and it is slowly but surely becoming a rival in size to any sport. With almost 30 million viewers for eSports world championships, we should see soon enough that eSports will be a household name.