A Promising Future for E-Sports

By: Brett Gardner

We’re all, to varying degrees, sports fans, are we not? We, as a whole, love to enjoy some sport, be it football, hockey, baseball, so on and so forth.

We’re also, to varying degrees, albeit in a much larger sense, nerds. We love video games. Playing them, designing, testing, whatever!

Now, readers, I ask you this: What happens when you combine the two? You take the popularity of sports. The thousands of screaming fans, the intense competitiveness, “My team is better than yours” arguments; now take video games. The competitiveness of being better than your opponent, the hand-eye coordination, the knowledge it takes to play at a professional level, the absurdly high APM (Actions per Minute).

What do you get?

This:

 

Now you’ve probably watched this short clip. For those of you that recognize this game, excellent. If you don’t, not to worry! First, I want you to rewatch this clip, but instead of watching Reginald score a triple kill with no effort, I want you to listen to the fans screaming. Ignore Hatperson (the annoying voice commentating) and listen to them cheer Reginald on.

Sounds like something you’d expect at a football game, doesn’t it? Now, granted, there aren’t thousands upon thousands of fans in a huge stadium screaming, but it’s still unexpected, isn’t it? For those of you that aren’t familiar with League of Legends, you’ve just watched a short clip from the IPL Face-off two weeks ago. I won’t go into details about the game itself, as that would take far too long, and it’s not what I’m here to talk about.

What I am actually here to talk about is E-sports. Now, when I say E-sports, I don’t mean these numerous Gamebattles 5v5s on Modern Warfare 3, or Black Ops, or whatever. I’m talking about professional gamers, with actual sponsors, getting on stage in front of a few hundred people (and tens of thousands of fans at home watching the stream) and playing for money.

Starcraft II is, quite literally, the national pastime of South Korea. If I remember right, they have 2 (possibly 3) TV studios dedicated solely to showcasing professional SC2 players. You see football fans flying flags of their favorite team right? They do the same in South Korea for their favorite SC2 player. Crazy, right?

Before I go further, I want to explain something about the small group of people I play video games with. One of my closest friends is a combat veteran of two separate tours, one in Iraq, another in Afghanistan. He’s a father, devoted husband, and just about finished with a tattoo sleeve that’s 2+ years in the making. Oh, and he started culinary school this past week.

You know what we did two weeks ago? We sat in front of our computers, like we would a TV for the superbowl, and watched the IPL Faceoff League of Legends tournament. I believe there were 4 of us that night, including a web design specialist, I (an engineer specializing in the nuclear field), and another close friend of ours. Four grown men, and we sat in front of our computers, watching teams go head-to-head for the 20,000$ first place prize.

20 grand for winning a video game tournament? Sign me up. But it’s not that simple. These guys have sponsors, from Razor, to SteelSeries, Samsung, Gunnar Optics, and numerous others I forget about.

Season Two for League of Legends ends October 12, when the grand finals are streamed live in Los Angeles. The prize pool for that tournament? 3 Million Dollars. Yes, you read that correctly.

I’m getting off-track. I could talk for days about the ingenuity of Riot Games (in fact, I have another blog in the works talking about them.) but here’s neither the time, nor the place for it. Starcraft II, and League of Legends are two the pioneers in E-sports. SC2 will always have its loyal fanbase, mostly because of South Korea. But League of Legends is truly making enormous strides in the E-sport franchise. They’ve already committed to a prize pool in season 3, one that is greater than 5 million dollars.

Holy crap. I know what I’ll be doing come October 12th. Sitting here, in this same chair I’m in now, watching the League of Legends Season 2 Grand Finals.

A friend of mine told me that growing up in the 90s, we were lucky, we had some of the best cartoons, video games, and all sorts of awesome stuff, and I agree with him.

But you know what? I, personally, am more excited to see where Riot is going to take E-sports, and to see which companies, which games, step up to the plate, and further solidify the presence video games have in the competitive scene. I can’t wait.

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