May 8, 2018
At this point, if your parents present you with the “playing video games will get you nowhere” talk, they are wrong. eSports, while new to the majority of society, are not necessarily a new concept. Major League Gaming (more widely known as MLG) formed as early as 2002; Evolution, the biggest fighting game tournament, was founded back in 1996. Recently, many people and organizations have started investing in eSports teams, yet eSports are still not getting as much coverage as other sports like basketball, football, and baseball. Why is this happening? Why are people investing? What does the mainstream see eSports as?
eSports in brief
eSports, short for electronic sports, is the concept of massive online battle arenas (MOBAs) and fighting games acting as real sports, with the players on certain teams playing games for monetary gain. Like actual sports teams, the teams in the Overwatch League offers players housing, health insurance, and retirement savings plans. The Overwatch League also requires teams to give players a minimum salary of $50,000. The North America League of Legends Championship Series also requires that teams give each player a minimum salary of $75,000 per Split, or season. The leagues supply their teams with jerseys as well, to create a more professional feel. These leagues also have an official code of conduct and they both enforce their codes of conduct rather well, sometimes they enforce it more than other sports leagues do.
Why are eSports not getting so much attention?
The eSports scene as a whole does not get as much attention due to its overall lack of a professional atmosphere. In the Super Smash Brothers community, there is this concept of “being eSports.” That means acting in a professional manner: not cursing or making obscene gestures, wearing more “professional” attire, etc. Media outlets like ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports would not cover Smash Bros events because of our lack of this “eSports” mentality. It would not look good on their record, which would stain their reputation with viewers that don’t genuinely understand the personality of our scene. In short, eSports are not as widespread because some people don’t like the unprofessional feel of it, and some people are still in the realm of “video games are for losers.”
Despite this, why are people investing?
People and organizations still invest because eSports as a whole, has become one of the most lucrative businesses to become a part of. According to a report by Dot Esports in 2017, Tencent, the parent organization of Riot Games, has grossed $21.9 billion off of League of Legends. Blizzard, the MOBA juggernaut known for games such as Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Overwatch. The scene is also growing in player count exponentially, with Overwatch, Blizzard’s premier first-person shooter game, gaining 30 million players and grossing over $1,000,000,000 within the first year of its lifespan, according to a report from Polygon in May 2017. League of Legends has over 120 million players, and that number has been rising fast. eSports are now incredibly lucrative, and it shows with big names like Rick Fox, Robert Kraft, the Golden State Warriors, and the Miami Heat all investing in recent years. The eSports scene is still getting many investors attracted to the business because it’s become a gold mine.
Does the media fully accept eSports?
On August 28th, 2015, the official Jimmy Kimmel YouTube channel uploaded a scene where Jimmy Kimmel (who clearly had not looked into what he was talking about) disparaged YouTube Gaming, a sub-platform of YouTube devoted entirely towards gaming content, using the question of “what is the point of watching people play video games if you play video games yourself?”. As of April 2018, it has over 178,000 dislikes. One month later, Colin Cowherd, one of the most polarizing sports personalities, ranted about eSports on his show. Just a few days later, Boston Celtics player Gordon Hayward jumped in as our knight in shining armor, completely dismantling Cowherd’s “points,” which were outdated stereotypes like “gamers are 29 years old and live in their parents’ basement.” There are many players in the Overwatch League, for example Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Indy “SPACE” Halpern, that were already on teams and had to wait until they were 18 years old in order to be allowed to compete in the Overwatch League.
Some news stations have done a decent job of treating eSports with the respect it has failed to attain for such a long time, like Fox 2 Detroit when they covered The Big House 7, the seventh installment of a major tournament series, and Fox 35 Orlando, who ran a feature piece on Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, the new number one Super Smash Bros. Melee player in the world, and even invited him to the studio to show them the ropes of the game after they interviewed him at his house. Others, unfortunately, still seem to be in the stone age, with the only segments they run on video games being an anti-video game story. Very recently, CityNews Toronto went to Enthusiastic Gaming Live Expo to cover how much of a “drug” video games are. They all made themselves into an insult to the name of journalism by entering a very friendly environment and asking some innocent questions, only to take peoples quotes and put them massively out of context. They overlooked the fact that there was a massive amount of people going to this event from all over the world to meet new people, level up and have fun.
Therefore, the answer to this question can be very different, depending on what sort of views your local station has.
There is no doubt in my mind that there will come a time when eSports will stand at the top of the sports hierarchy because of its recent explosion in popularity and investments. Some news stations seem like they’ve yet to embrace this, and it does not seem like they will do so soon, whether Sinclair’s antics are a cause of this or not. Derek Kevra, who ran the story about The Big House 7, ran that story very well. We gamers have created jobs such as players, commentators, content creators, coaches, social media directors, MCs, and even people who run live streams for events. The League of Legends Championship Series, or LCS, has sponsors such as State Farm, 5 Hour Energy, Geico, Gillette, and Acer. The Overwatch League has big sponsors such as Toyota, Sour Patch Kids, Intel, HP, and T-Mobile. Those sponsors, in return for having their company advertised, sponsor content created by the league. T-Mobile, for example, is the sponsor of the vote for the League MVP; Sour Patch provides free Sour Patch from time to time to people who go to the Blizzard Arena. For years upon years, people have worked without end to keep eSports alive and to expose eSports to a wider audience by buying venues for tournaments and other events, creating and running live streams, hiring casters, cameramen, and analysts, advertising the event by creating certain incentives to go, and accepting vendor applications. Since the eSports scene has been on the grind for so long, I’d say it’s about time eSports get the respect they deserve.