Sports have been canceled for over 90 days now as Coronavirus and its impact continues to be seen. This virus has taken the main form of entertainment I’ve enjoyed since early childhood and completely wiped it out for the foreseeable future. Although I’m still holding out for the NBA season to continue, my hope is strung along by a thin thread dwindling in the wind of an uncertain future. With sports entertainment out the window, I’ve turned to new forms of competitive entertainment over the last few months to fill the empty void sports has left in my soul. As you may have guessed by the title of the article, that entertainment is Esports.
What is Esports?
Esports, a name referring to “electronic sports” has really taken off in the last decade. The name itself has drawn a lot of criticism from the sporting world as gaming and physical activity require vastly different skill sets. Whether you think Esports should be considered sports or not, it doesn’t really matter as there is already a large audience for the industry. Esports and the competitive atmosphere of top-rated gaming titles is enough of a draw for people to want to tune in and watch. Additionally, there are major prize pools these professional teams are playing for. All of these things combined make it now possible for people to make a living, and a good one, playing video games.
In the past decade, Esports has grown from a middle schooler’s pipe dream to actual reality. When I was in high school, the heyday of my videogame career, I played semi competitively. I played in local madden tournaments and would grind Call of Duty MLG game battles leaderboards. It was fun, something I could do with my friends, and after realizing I was never going to go D1 in any sport; it gave me the opportunity to compete on a level playing field as my opponents. However, telling my parents I wanted to become a professional gamer at the time (2013-2014) wasn’t a realistic option. It wasn’t even something that seemed possible even if I wanted it.
Emergence of Esports
With the emergence of platforms like Twitch and the massive explosion of the Esports world that Fortnite brought, becoming a professional gamer has never been more attainable. Nowadays, if a high school student is a really good gamer, it is far less taboo for parents to support their child’s goal of playing semi-professional/professionally. There’s already some serious money to be made and Esports is an industry that just continues to grow each day. We’re seeing 16-year-old kids win millions of dollars in tournament earnings, and amassing large audiences on social media.
Can Esports compete
I’ve thought Esports was for real since I found out about it as a kid, but could Esports emerge as a new form of entertainment that can compete with the likes of the NFL, NBA, and MLB? The answer is, absolutely! Two million people tuned in on Twitch to watch Fortnite’s last world cup, and that’s just one game. Esports spans across many genres of games capturing different audiences. These major gaming events are selling out arenas, and the draw is there. It turns out watching someone play a game at the highest possible level for millions of dollars stretches beyond physical sports.
Beyond just competitive tournaments Esports draws an audience to individual players and streamers. Unlike basketball or football, you can watch your favorite players playing daily on streaming services. Imagine you’re a Lebron James fan, and when the NBA season wasn’t going on you could watch Lebron play pick up games against other NBA pros for money. When he wasn’t playing he was talking and interacting with you, answering questions, telling stories,etc.. Although I don’t really watch any streamers on a consistent basis, I can see the draw. Streamers are building communities of people that all share the same interests around gaming. Outside of competitive Esports, streamers are sometimes making more money streaming then they would if they were an actual pro playing tournaments.
What we have with Esports is something more than a game. It’s the personalities that play the game. It’s a committed fan base that supports the gamers more than the industry. With the absence of sports these past couple of months, people have rallied behind Esports. This is why I think we are seeing the emergence of a massive entertainment hub- one that is all online and can’t be stopped by a pandemic.
Will Esports Replace Sports?
All this begs the question, will Esports replace or compete with major sporting leagues in the future? Esports will keep growing and in some aspects, I think you could already say that Esports is competing with other leagues in the sense of viewership. I think video games are far more accessible than ever before and unlike sports, videos games have fewer physical restrictions. If you’re not tall, you might not be able to play basketball at the highest possible level. The same goes for football, track, and almost every other sport. If you’re not big, fast, and strong you won’t be able to excel. Video games allow for a wider umbrella of people to have the opportunity to become the best at any given game.
Physical sports will never be replaced as they always will have a major role to play in society. Esports does not mean the end of physical sports, it just means that there’s now an alternative to sports. Not everyone will see it that way and that’s okay. Not everyone will understand what’s going on in an Esports match, just like how someone who’s never watched a football game would have no idea what’s going on out on the field. But for the people that do understand, watching something be played at the highest level with money on the line seems like a form of entertainment that’s not going away anytime soon.
I would love to know what your thoughts on the topic are. Let me know what you think in the comments below, do Esports compare to regular sports? I think the line is very blurred. Until next time.
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Jackson Wiberg is a student, comedian, and podcast personality. He currently attends school at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee where he is pursuing his bachelors degree in communication. He's toured his stand up routine around the midwest and when he's not working likes spending time with his family and friends. You can follow Jackson on his social media: @jackson_wiberg on all social media platforms, and you can listen to his podcast The Blockbuster Boys podcast, the number 1 rated college comedy podcast in the world, on Apple podcasts and Spotify.