eSports is a trend that is just catching on in the U.K. It has fans of over five and a half million which is quite a significant following and is only gong to increase in numbers. In other countries however, such as the U.S it is an extremely popular way of playing games, drawing in crowds of around 71 million people to watch two or more professional video game players go at it for a cash prize and no, we’re not talking about virtual currency here! This is proper cash being earned by playing games such as Fifa, Call of Duty, Halo, League of Legends and basically any popular game that can be played competitively. With the best players earning around £200,000 a year for their skills in League of Legends, shows that competitive game tournaments are no longer an underground hobby.
The appeal of eSports comes from having the chance to get your video game playing ability noticed. So if you find yourself beating your friends consistently on your favourite game, that they don’t have a chance at winning and refuse to play with you anymore – you are perhaps a suitable candidate to take on the nations greats.
It’s not just great for the pros that are in for the chance of winning hundreds of thousands of pounds. It also allows fans of the games to pick up tips from the players that have truly dissected the game to get the edge over the average player. Most importantly however it will make games more than just a solitary outlet by bringing together a community of fans for a particular game.
In America this is evident. Player friendships have been forged, this has even generated in a documentary called The Smash Brothers consisting of members of the Super Smash Brothers community and the stories behind how they mastered the game. The documentary consisted of not just why these Smash Bros players were the best in the world, but the stories and characteristics of a lively bunch of people. Some fit the stereotype of the geeky shut in gamer that cares solely about the game others did not and had social lives outside that community.
All of this is the goal for Neville Upton director and co-founder of Kingston based games company, Gfinity. He describes eSports as “a major sociological change.”
For those also doubting the legitimacy of eSports as a genuine sport Neville draws comparisons between the two. He says: “The pros are training over ten hours a day. They have very strict nutrition and fitness regimes. eSports have all the attributes to other sports accept for the fact there is physical aversion. There are lot of other sports that do not have physical aversion such as darts, snooker, shooting curling. Otherwise it’s got players, fans and competition. It’s got rules, it’s got structures, it’s got all the attributes of normal sport and it’s growing really quickly.”
Work still needs to be done however to gain mainstream media attention. Neville added: “I think a lot of people recognise it as sport. The next big step is that the traditional media such as Sky and the BBC should start reporting on it in the sport section. Hopefully that will happen over the next 12-24 months.”
Gfinity’s aim is towards creating a competitive tournament scene with an eSports arena being planned. This will provide U.K gamers with a hub where they can meet like-minded individuals with a passion for play as well as compete in playing their favourite games. The Major League Gaming Tournament could also be held in the U.K so British gamers don’t have to stream the tourneys on twitch and can experience the event for themselves. An eSports arena will essentially operate as a glorified arcade parlour for gamers.
Most important of all it will contribute to the growing mainstream status that video games have now become. It is one of the many ways gamers can enjoy their games especially those who see themselves as devotees to the medium.
With the announcement of where the arena will be built at the end of the month, those who want to go for glory have a lot of practice time before the arena opens it’s doors.
But can video games be genuine sports? We asked some gamers at South Essex College to get their views.