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Competition may be natural, but for a long time the friendly competition was left to varsity jacket jocks and debate club stowaways. Kids in the middle didn’t have much to relate to. If they weren’t good at sports or school, there wasn’t often a form of professional competition. E-sports have changed that for a lot of people.
The gaming industry has reached a level of legitimacy in the arena of public opinion that it never had before, and this is partially due to the phenomena of e-sports. The idea that video games are merely tools of laziness and evil has been turned on its head. They’re now used in education and counseling, in addition to creating a worldwide community.
In the Beginning…
While the prominence of these type of games boosted in the mid-late ‘00s, there have been gaming championships since the ‘80s. According to the website Esports For Gamers (which gives an incredibly detailed history on the practice), e-sports went online during the ‘90s but reached their first sign of prominence with worldwide tournaments in the mid-’00s. There was, notably, a game called Netrek created in 1993 that helped shape gaming as we understand it now. See, while you and I may not remember it, it was the world’s first online team game.
But a larger future was always on the cards for e-sports. The ‘90s saw British TV shows such as GamesMaster and Bad Influence! featuring e-sports, as well as a show in Australia called A*mazing doing the same thing, according to e-sports for Gamers. While Netrek might not have had lasting public significance, the game concept, combined with the media fascination with video games, showed that the technology and publicity potential was there. It only took a few years until online video games took the world by storm.
E-sports have only gotten bigger in power, money, and following. They now have spectators, and while some argue they can’t be considered real “sports,” there’s no denying the skill it takes to be good at them and their impact on the world. Financially, Nasdaq called the rise of e-sports “incredible,” noting that some colleges are even offering scholarships for video game skills.
This primarily blossomed from the video game revolution in the mid-’00s. It was then that e-sports arrived at global championships of online gaming. People around the world participated in World of Warcraft and League of Legend tournaments for prize money with people they’d never met before. When all was said and done, it only took online streaming culture and faster internet to propel it to the level it’s at today.
The Lasting Effects
Unfortunately, e-sports still get a somewhat negative association attached to them because they are, well, video games. For instance, people often blame violent video games for mass shootings while they cling to their guns, disregarding the place of legislation and background checks in the equation. Due to this accusation of one kind of video game, all video games get a bad rap. But video games in general are getting more credit too — as they should. As mentioned in the Sparking Change podcast #28 with Owen Harris, video games can be even used to combat anxiety.
The thing about e-sports is that they bring people together. Due to worldwide tournaments, people are embraced in a community like they couldn’t have been 20 years ago. Friendly competition can be had through e-sports, and the world is starting to take them seriously — ESPN is even getting involved. Video games in general are changing the way the world works, and due to this, e-sports are being taken much more seriously.