Realistic video games have been around for at least 20 years now and have gathered dedicated followings. Yet, they were always considered a niche. Over time, gaming realism has improved, and so has awareness of the way gaming distills sporting prowess to its purest form. Not everyone has the physical ability to try drag racing or a blood sport, but they can try them on virtual games, and master them with sheer mental ability rather than physical ability. Video games open competitive sport to a larger crowd. The result has turned out to be a visual sport that is both enjoyable to play and to watch.
Even a decade ago, it didn’t occur to most people that they could sit down to watch a video game played by gifted players, the way they would watch a football game on TV, or at a sporting arena. Today, it is commonplace. Called e-sports, professionally played video games are so popular now, competitions and tournaments are beginning to rival conventional sports for the attention they get. Many countries have their own e-sporting organizations that officiate these tournaments and conduct doping tests to ensure clean, fair competition.
The phenomenon of the e-athlete
Gaining mastery over a popular game such as World of Warcraft, Halo, Defense of the Ancients or League of Legends, can take years. When players or e-athletes choose games to specialize in, it tends to be for one of various conventional reasons. While personal taste is certainly one part of what goes into a choice, the public adulation and financial rewards possible are important factors, as well. With e-sporting events routinely filling stadiums, the adulation is easy to come by.
The prize purses
DoTA tournaments are one of the biggest international e-sporting events around, and purses go over $5 million. Considering that the winning team at the Super Bowl wins a $10 million purse, DoTA’s prize pot is particularly impressive. E-sports haven’t been around for very long, but they are fully expected to allow athletes the luxury of long careers.
The League of Legends World Championships in 2014 attracted 11 million viewers online for individual matches. The 2013 World Championships had 32 million viewers. Businesses want to be seen where the crowds are, and the crowds today are at e-sporting tournaments watching the big-name e-athletes. Samsung sponsors a League of Legends team. Major names such as American Express, Coca-Cola and Red Bull support individual advertising sponsorships that run into the hundreds of thousands.
What happens when one loses?
Every sport with mass appeal provides players with plenty of opportunity when they win. What happens when they lose, however? It isn’t uncommon for 20-year-old e-athletes with unbelievable winning streaks to retire at their peak to nurse repetitive strain injuries.
Fortunately, the e-sporting ecosystem is mature enough to offer continued support to those with skills. From e-sports tour promotion to live commentary, it’s always possible to rake in a handsome income in this industry. YouTube alone, for instance, hosts hundreds of live commentary channels, and the best commentators have followings in the millions, with enviable advertising revenue.
You could become a professional player yourself
Becoming an e-athlete is a real career choice. It doesn’t take much of an investment to get started — you would need to lay out a couple of thousand dollars to buy a good computer, a cheap gaming chair and a gaming subscription, and you could get started. As with any sport, you need to dedicate yourself to excelling. If you do, there are few things in life that work out better.