Recently a 16 year old eSports gamer won $3 million by coming first place in the Fortnite World Cup. Understandably there is much buzz surrounding the world of eSports.
Worldwide, eSports are incredibly popular and extremely competitive. Only the very best players – the cream of the crop – rise to the top and capture fame from the millions of Millennial and Gen Z fans. The industry has also become lucrative – there are more sponsorships and brand deals than ever for top performing gamers.
The highest earning player in eSports at present is a German gamer called Kuro Takhasomi. It is estimated he has earned over $4 million in total by playing Dota 2.
However, the world of eSports can seem like a confusing arena to outsiders. This article will explore the phenomenon and its impact. But first a crucial question must first be asked: what are eSports?
eSports involves the competitive playing of video games. While eSports may seem like a relatively recent concept, competitive gaming has been around since the 1970s. In fact, the very first gaming tournament was held in 1972, and centered on a game called “Spacewar!”.
As technology has progressed over time, the popularity of competitive gaming has soared. Gamers no longer compete solely local level competitions but in worldwide tournaments. Naturally, the community has grown and the standards of professional gaming have increased too.
Battle royale games and first-person shooters are very popular in the world of eSports. However, this booming industry is not limited to these types of games. Fighting and strategy games are also popular choices.
A few examples of popular eSports games include Dota 2, Fortnite, Counter-strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA and more.
Professional eSport gamers can compete for solo or in organised teams. Some top tier professional teams can offer benefits such as a salary and accommodation in exchange for long, set working hours. 12 – 14 hours of gaming, 6 days a week is often a reality in this environment.
Those aspiring to go professional must develop their skills and climb the ranks of a particular game. Platforms such as Twitch and Youtube have really opened up the competitive gaming world to a much larger audience. The industry particularly appeals to fans in their twenties or teenage years.
Burnout and Injuries
It takes a certain personality to be drawn into playing competitively on a professional level. Quick decision making, skill, perfectionism, and competitiveness are traits that are highly valued in this industry. Gamers must show a willingness to grind for many hours to improve their play style.
The 12 – 14 hour workdays can really take its toll on professional gamers. All too often, promising careers are cut short by burnout and injuries. Stress is not a worst-case scenario but an inevitability. The pressure can be immense.
Besides the psychological impact, competing in eSports can also take a physical toll. Due to long hours spent performing repetitive movements in front of a computer screen, repetitive strain injuries are common. Such injuries can affect the wrist, forearm, shoulders, hands, neck, and back.
Much like a traditional athlete, such overwork related injuries are caution in the profession. An article in the BMJ Journal of Open Sport and Exercise Medicine conducted a study into the health complaints of eSport gamers.
As many as 56% reported eye fatigue and 42% back and neck pain. Despite this, only 2% of participants actually sought medical attention for their injuries.
Some top tier gaming teams provide psychologists and physiotherapists to better support their players. However, many do not. In such a fast-moving and highly competitive industry, it can be easy to push aside an injury for progress.
This is especially true considering there is no union for eSports professionals. Instead, game developers of the most popular games hold the power in this industry. This is because the developers own the rights and intellectual property to their video games.
Developers who have video games that take off in the eSport world likely rub their hands together as there is much money within the sport.
Cheating and Controversies
Given the large sums of money surrounding eSports, cheating is a very real threat. There have been numerous instances of cheating – from match-fixing to match throwing. The eSport industry is growing rapidly and is set to increase even further. Naturally, gambling marketing for eSports is too.
The World eSports Association (WESA) works to assist tournament standardization and improve integrity in the industry. Notably it was only founded in 2016.
Cheating is not taken lightly in eSports. For instance, in 2016, one top Starcraft II player nicknamed “Life” was banned and jailed for 18 months for throwing two matches.
In tournaments, players have also been disqualified for verbal abuse, cheating, and bad sportsmanship.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs is also a problem within the industry. For example, a minority of players have taken Adderall to boost focus.
However, many gamers instead rely on energy drinks for a performance edge. Again these issues mirror the traditional competitive sports world.
Communities and Sponsorship
Viewership of eSports is largely made up of Millennial and Gen Z spectators. 380 million people watched eSports in 2018, according to a report by Goldman Sachs.
The same report predicts this is due to increase to an estimated 557 million by 2021. There is even talk of eSports being accepted into the Olympics. Given the intensity of the sport and its phenomenal audience, it is a distinct future possibility.
The booming popularity of eSports and its accelerated growth makes this an incredibly exciting industry. A part of the appeal is that any player has the opportunity to climb the ranks with enough skill, hard work, and grit.
Individuals watch eSports for a variety of reasons. Some watch to observe the very best play a particular game. Others hoping to enter the industry seek to learn from competitions. Most watch for the simple enjoyment of following a visual, high stakes competition.
Many professional eSports players become celebrities in their own right – attracting their own community of fans. Streaming on Twitch and Youtube have made this easier to some degree.
As a result, endorsements and sponsorships have become commonplace. Many professionals rely on brand deals for income in between competitions.
Even huge corporations such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz have offered sponsorship to top performers. More and more companies recognize how much money is to be made within this industry.
Young people are also being encouraged to enter the world of eSports. Universities worldwide now offer eSports programs. There are even youth leagues and engagement programs in operation.
A wide range of roles are involved in the eSports scene – from management to marketing. Not everyone who enlists in such programs will become a professional gamer and may prefer a behind the scenes role.
eSports has progressed since early days of competitive gaming thanks to advances in technology. The thriving industry is appealing to a mainstream audience. In turn, the growing audience is turning the sport into a lucrative industry.
This is good news for professional competitive gamers, who are able to compete on a worldwide stage. Discussions over potential future inclusion of eSports in the Olympics are particularly exciting. The sport is not without its own pitfalls. Burnout, injury and cheating are all issues faced by players.
On the plus side, competition prizes given at tournaments can be immense. Sponsorship deals are being made with professional players and their teams by large corporations. The sport is an immense boost for the already thriving worldwide video game industry.
Progress is being made. The growing sport is making way to address tournament standardization and integrity with the creation of WESA. The association will also advocate for player rights. University programs and junior leagues are also improving outreach and providing more young people with a way into the industry.
The popularity of eSports is set to grow in the coming years.
Hi there! My name is Kara and I write about games and technology for iTHINK Magazine. I am a Business graduate, a proud dog owner, and fervent tea drinker. In my free time, I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy novels, playing video games and writing fiction.