We live in an era where traditional sports such as baseball, football, and basketball are not the only options anymore. E-Sports, the video game teams skyrocketing in popularity as with their million dollar prize pools, are continuing to sweep the country and the world. With sports being so fitness and skill based, is it safe to say that these teams should even be considered under sports, or be making hundreds of thousands of dollars playing video games? With the hours of strenuous work focused towards one game, team building, and public matches played in arenas, E-sports deserves the recognition that the rest of the world gives to professional sports teams.
So what exactly is E-sports? Ranging across multiple games, they are tournaments, normally consisting of teams of 5 that play for prize money. Games can range but the most popular ones have been League of Legends, DOTA 2, & Counter Strike, with Halo 5 creating its own Halo Championship and Call of Duty creating one as well. While still rising, ESPN conducted research that concluded that in 2014 alone “205 million people watched or played E-Sports.” Teams from across the world come together in qualifying matches until it’s time to hit the center stage and play in arenas such as the Staple Center, and many more convention centers. While there is a lot backing E-Sports and great content about, it’s still an issue trying to open it up to a wider audience.
So why can’t we compare these teams to professional traditional sports. They practice, they wear jerseys, they play in front of thousands of people, yet they still don’t receive public recognition. If 13.8 million people watch the World Series, but 27 million watch the League of Legends Championship, then why doesn’t it obtain the praise? The goal is to expand the audience field away from just gamers and promote community and involvement.
So how can we make E-Sports obtain more recognition and praise for its efforts in the professional sports industry? The first step would be pushing it out into the public sphere. TBS already started a show in the summer of 2016 called “ELeague,” which followed teams through a tournament for the game “Counter Strike” for a reward of 15 million euros. This was the first big push to put video games on cable tv, rather than streaming on the very popular but narrow audience field Twitch.tv. While the episodes were long, spanning about 3 hours, it was definitely a step in the right direction.
The second step would be community involvement. Just recently, video games have started releasing downloadable content (known as DLC) for games that not only give you sponsored in-game items, but donate towards the prize pools in E-Sports. For example, Gears of War 4 is putting out an E-Sports DLC pack that lets you change the appearance of your character. It boasts a unique black skin, making it unique while at the same time helping donate towards the tournament. Things like this not only help fund and keep these tournaments alive, but bring awareness to the fact that they actually exist. The majority of people may not even know that some of their favorite games have professional teams that pour out sweat and tears to be ranked number 1 in competition, and these DLC packs help educate and excite the community.
Pursuing a career in the video game industry as well as being a connoisseur of the medium, I believe I’m educated on the topic when it comes to E-Sports. While I’ve been playing my whole life and wish to pursue a career in PR and Marketing in such fields, I feel that these options are a great start for helping E-Sports gain the recognition it deserves. We’re on an uphill climb, and with these additions, E-Sports will gain the recognition in public space that those players deserve.