Esports: a new culture of athleticism

Finally, the years of sitting in your basement or living room, spending hundreds and even thousands of hours honing your video game skills might just pay off as online streaming capabilities give rise to a quickly growing category of sports industry- esports.

Esports is a form of competition usually based on multiplayer video games such as League of Nations, Call of Duty, Fortnite Battle Royale, Dota 2 and others. These games feature multiplayer functions which allow players to interact and compete in online worlds. Online streaming takes the competition public by allowing viewers everywhere to stream these competitions from the comfort of their own homes as well as in organized conventions and competitions. Teams and leagues have been formed in order to showcase this newly popularized sport, and even the Olympic committee has considered adding esport events to the Olympic games.

Since various companies including BBC, ESPN, SkySports and Yahoo have begun to stream these events, the fan and player base has expanding immensely. The online trend has quickly become a high grossing industry with millions of vocal fans and avid players.

The world of esports has only recently stepped into the limelight. Only a decade ago, amateur competitions drew the attention of a few thousand online and in-person viewers, compared to the 427 million which are estimated to watch online gaming in 2019. According to Variety.com, only about 103 million viewers tuned in to watch this year’s Super Bowl which is largely considered the largest sporting event of the year, garnering the attention of less than one fourth the number of fans esports do.

The popularity of esports is also evident on college campuses around the US which have begun to include gaming scholarships in addition to their traditional athletic scholarships. According to Forbes, colleges have been building esport varsity teams since 2014 when Robert Morris University in Illinois announced a scholarship-sponsored League of Legends team. These scholarships are like most other athletic scholarships and are awarded based on merit, academic excellence and athletic abilities.

The main governing body for these organizations, the National Association of College Esports (NACE), focuses on the development and support of collegiate level esport programs. NACE currently consists of 45 schools and their esport programs, and is expected to grow as more and more colleges jump on the gaming bandwagon.

The largest obstacle esports face is respectability. When people see gamers, “athlete” is not the first word that comes to mind; however, as viewership and support increase, esports are gaining more worldwide attention and respect. While the sport may have a ways to go, one thing is for certain- esports are here to stay.

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