Video games have changed media drastically since the days of Pong, today those changes have pulled video games and sports together to make eSports.
While not something entirely new, eSports have seen a drastic increase in both ways to compete and in viewership. Many games have developed competitive leagues, the most popular being League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Hearthstone and StarCraft 2.
With the use of streaming services such as Twitch.tv, viewership for eSports has raised to tens of millions of people across the globe. In fact according to Riot games, the creators of League of Legends, over 32 million fans watched their 2013 world championships a number that is impressive even to the mainstay sports of America.
The reason for this rise may be a bit more involved than it seems. StarCraft has been around as an eSport for over a decade and never saw those types of numbers in its early days, even with the inclusion of video sites such as YouTube.
Former StarCraft commentator and eSport advocate, Sean “Day9” Plott had once said that eSports are popular because people at home watching can do what they see. They don’t have to gather a bunch of friends to put on a game, they can simply load up the game on their computer and try it out.
The ability for viewers to become players is a big benefit in favor of eSports. It shortens the connection that viewers have with their favorite professional player and try to emulate their style of play.
It’s not just in online communities that eSports have made their mark. ESPN has also recognized the growth the community has had. On their website is a section entirely dedicated to eSports, and has even covered the Dota 2 international on TV, and has shown fighting game highlights on Sportscenter.
Recently ESPN was the host provider for showing the collegiate eSports competition, Heroes of the Dorm. The competition pitted college students against each other in the Blizzard game Heroes of the Storm. The competition was done in a March Madness bracket style event that lead to the finals between ASU and UT Arlington.
Even the American government has recognized the validity of eSports, allowing international players to have similar visas as standard sport athletes, which allows them to play in America.
All of these inclusions have brought eSports to where they are today, a massively growing industry that may one day very soon rival that of the biggest sports being played around the world.