eSports. A form of entertainment that has seen a huge boom in popularity in the past few years continues to grow and shows no signs of stopping. But just what is it and where did it originate from?
eSports is the competitive playing of video games. Be they fighting, real-time strategy or shooters. Competitions vary from university campus tournaments to massive events like Dreamhack, Major League Gaming (MLG) or Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) with their huge prize pools and highly skilled players.
The idea of competitive gaming came as early as the arcades, where players fought to get their names up on the high scores lists. Atari hosted its Space Invader Championships, Nintendo the World Championships and their rare cartridges. In the late nineties the internet opened new doors for more and more players to try and take their place on the winner’s podium in games such as Quake, StarCraft and more.
But how does eSports differ to sports in the traditional sense?
In the world of sports the game hardly ever changes. If you understood the game 20 years ago, you’ll understand it today. But in eSports the games are constantly changing; balance tweaks, new characters or expansions and sometimes entirely different strategies that alter how the game is played. This means that within a few months of not following the scene a viewer could miss out on a massive game-changer. But with the internet and social media this news is easier to follow than ever.
As in sports; some games are more popular than others. League of Legends, Starcraft 2 and Dota 2 stand as some the most viewed professionally played games in the world. Bringing in tens of thousands of views for their regular tournament live streams and sometimes even more. The League of Legends Season 2 World Championship attracted 1.1 million simultaneous viewers, and 8.2 million unique viewers, as Abuzu Frost and The Taipei Assassins battled for the $1,000,000 grand prize.
But the line between sports and eSports in become more and more blurred as Publishers and Developers push to structure their games more and more like a real sports league. Riot Games has taken the approach of hosting matches every week, ending in a knock out tournament to decide the winners of The League Championship Series (LCS).
eSports has a bright future ahead of it, if the present is anything to go by. Recently the latest expansion to StarCraft 2 - Heart of The Swarm, was released, Victor Sandberg beat the world record score on Missile Command, TeamSoloMid have their own TV-quality series on Gamespot and pro gamers could be taking part in the Olympics one day. Personally; I can't wait to see where eSports heads next.