The crowd cheering after a well-done play. Everyone rooting for his or her favorite team. Everyone going crazy for the winner.
Am I talking about the recent Super Bowl XLVI? Nope, I’m talking about the other thing. The forbidden fruit of sports. I’m talking about e-sports.
It’s gotten quite a bad rap in the United States. A common complaint is that they’re not “real” sports. The criticism is a fair one, of course. They’re not sports as we traditionally imagine them, with athletes that train hard and have bulging muscles. Does that mean that they’re not a legit form of entertainment? Of course not. But are they sports? That’s where it gets tricky.
At the heart of all sports is a game with strict rules, such as not touching the ball at certain time, that need to be followed. It’s no different with e-sports. In fact, e-sports are a more pure form of sporting, since they’re not dependent on the weather conditions or whims of fate like a star player breaking a leg. It all boils down to pure skill.
But let’s come at it from another perspective. To answer the question of if e-sports are a real sport or not, we only need to look to South Korea for how far e-sports can go. For whatever reason, they went crazy for Blizzard’s “Starcraft.” Professional players of “Starcraft” over there are treated like football players here in the states. There’s even a channel dedicated solely to “Starcraft.”
Now I ask you this: Is that any different than having an entire channel dedicated to just football? Both are games with rules that must be followed, but one is far more acceptable to be a fan of here in the states.
Could “Starcraft” ever be as popular over here as it is in Korea? Not very likely. The West in particular values physical activities over using one’s mind.
But the times, they are a-changin’. Popular competitive game “League of Legends” had a tournament last year that brought in 300,000 unique viewers, from North America alone, out of 11 million monthly players, according to sk-gaming.com. Game developer Valve’s “DOTA2” flagship tournament, The International, brought in 1.5 million viewers, though that was globally.
As these number show, there’s a growing respect for e-sports and as people who play video games grow up, the portion that watches them, even in America, are only going to get larger. Are e-sports ever going to match the popularity of the Superbowl, which had 110 million viewers? Probably not any time soon. But I’m not saying it couldn’t happen.
On the contrary, it may happen. Eventually.