© Sam Churchill
Regardless of how involved you are in the video game industry, there's no way to miss the influence and fame that eSports currently enjoys. Worth billions of dollars annually and being featured on major channels like ESPN demonstrate what was once a niche form of competition is now a major international force. In fact, the winners of the biggest annual eSports competitions take home more than the winners at Wimbledon, with significant implications for the future of video gaming contests. So, how did we get here so quickly, and what could this mean for the players of tomorrow?
Everyone loves gamesFor both the audience members and competitors, it's the simple popularity of video games that has suddenly snuck up on the mainstream. The people who grew up with the super popular consoles like the NES are now in their thirties and forties, replacing the old guard and even having kids of their own entering professional playing age.
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Big thanks also have to go to the work of Twitch, the internet's number one video game streaming platform. Going online in 2011, the concept of Twitch was often derided at first, but the simple idea proved to be worth more than the sum of its parts. At the end of 2012, Twitch claimed an average viewer count of around 120,000. As of the start of 2022, this number had reached over 2.9 million. Considering most of these views were for casual gaming, it's little surprise that pro tournaments have raised the bar even further.
Expanding from interactive entertainmentThough video game viewership and casual involvement might be somewhat new on a wider scale, it's not the only form of online competition that has been making waves. Take something as simple and popular as online bingo games as an example. These titles like Flash Bingo and Deal or No Deal come from a different industry, but like online video games, they've massively raised the profile on what used to be an at-home and physical tournament-only type of play.
Going forwardAs a test of discipline, skills, and wits, video games act as a kind of fusion between many existing and classic titles. Fighting games are a fine example of this, sometimes described as a combination of speed chess and Hungry Hungry Hippos. They offer both accessibility at the entry-level and an extremely competitive scene on the highest tier. They both bring people in and keep them engaged through dozens or even hundreds of hours of play.
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Even past the idea of fun, eSports can introduce players to the value of communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. People not interested in or capable of playing more established physical sports can find a home in the digital sphere, and be supported by fans and friends, making eSports hugely influential to their lifestyles.
Ultimately, eSports have expanded thanks to a new generation of players and viewers, an approachability from other forms of competition, and the opportunities they offer outside of the direct games. They're another type of experience to enjoy and bring people together, and even if you're not interested yourself, this can be a very good thing. Let's just hope we're past the age of flossing in the public arena.