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Why the Rise of eSports Matters

I’ve never heard of eSports until my local news ran a segment on college eSport teams. Apparently I have been living under a rock for over 20 years.

As someone who has played both traditional and alternative team sports, when I heard that competitive eSports was a thing, I laughed at the legitimacy of it integrating into the ranks competitive athletics.

eSports, the gamer’s version of Monday Night Football, has been ascending through average athletics and making its way through the ranks of college and professional sports. There is a niche, a demand, and even crazed fans that are there to motivate the team into winning.
In what was played for a grand prize of a year’s worth of Rolling Stones issues at Stanford University in the ‘70’s is now garnering the attention of not only those who are interested in the gaming world, but those who hold additional sports on a pedestal like colleges and media outlets such as ESPN. With an upward of hundreds of different games played competitively with the chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes, acclaim, and fame within the gaming community, and integration into the general athletic community; there is plenty of proof that the ascension of competitive gaming is becoming one of the most popular “up and coming” sports around.

So is this something that those who are athletically challenged could flock to? Yes and no. Unlike traditional sports, eSports doesn’t employ the use of physical prowess, it’s more mental and intellectual. There isn’t a need to strength train at specified times at a gym or do PT drills several times a week to keep skills sharp (unless they are already doing them as part of a fitness regimen, then more power to them). On average, eSport athletes practice long hours, have conferences and tourneys against other colleges, and also incur costs associated with their sport such as headpieces, PC upkeep, and keyboards. Teamwork, just like football or any other sports, is crucial for the success of a eSport team.

It’s also has spread to the ranks of collegiate sports. When Robert Morris University-Chicago announced last month that they became the first college to make collegiate eSports worthy of a varsity ranking, the general athletic community (football, basketball, etc) started to generate buzz on how this “new sport” could fit into the athletic community and if it is a legitimate sport.

However, the rise of eSports isn’t without it’s criticism. Is gaming finally being recognized as a legitimate sport instead of a stereotypical ideal that gaming is strictly a hobby of overweight, middle aged men living in their mother’s basements? How can it be legitimate if there is nothing “physical” going on? The list of questions can go on and on. How do you determine what gamers should be on the team? Especially college teams, where this would be the starting foundation of a gamer’s future pro career? Typically, most players are considered based on their past participation in the games that the college features (League of Legends, Starcraft, etc.) or their experience in competitive gaming, Players can not be on academic probation or be classified as a Pro Gamer before the school they will play for. Players also have to be full time (12 credit hours or university’s requirements) to be eligible.

Still questioning the legitimacy of eSports as a college and professional sport?

According to a Pew Research Study conducted in 2003, nearly 70% of college students have played video games at one point or another. With about 103 higher education institutions that are part of the Collegiate Star League, the rise of eSports has schools falling in line to get in with this ever-growing sport.

So why should we even care about the rapid rise of eSports? It is literally the sport of the future. With most competitive games being readily available and easy to “train” with, any gamer can attempt to become an athlete of an eSport team, granted they have the drive, dedication, and talent to get there. With traditional sports, if you have not joined that specific sports team at a young age to learn the game, it will be challenging to make it on a high school or even a collegiate level without knowledge or prior experience. You literally have to have raw talent in order to get into traditional sports sans experience.

According to the Major League Gaming (MLG), the leading foundation for professional gaming, “ability to break into professional gaming is much more accessible than most other professional sporting leagues”, thanks to consoles and platforms that can connect to other players via internet.

Competitive gaming is much more than a simple hobby. It’s a way of life that promotes time management, communication, community, and motivation.

If you are still not sold on why you should pay attention to the rise of the eSports, just remember the driving factors behind it literally teaches and promotes everything that we, as adults, need to know to lead successful lives.