My brother started playing the online video game League of Legends in 2011.
When I first saw the game, I was a little confused. Essentially, it’s the same forested arena with a team of heroes killing each other in order to achieve an objective.
I was not impressed.
But then my brother told me about how many people actually give a damn about watching people play video games. It even has a name: eSports. If you’re curious, eSports, in particular arena games like League of Legends, garner a bigger audience than the Super Bowl. Yes, you read that right: on a regular basis, more people watch a random video game tournament than the pinnacle of real sports.
Since 2011, the eSports genre grew exponentially, with more than 200 million players and around 50 million playing at any given time around the world. There are more than a dozen different games that have a competitive scene from shooters to strategies to large scale Hunger Games-styled battle royales.
In addition, some of the game developers have started to take it upon themselves to host national and international tournaments, many of which feature a grand prize of more than $1 million. Some even have their own professional leagues, hosting dozens of players and teams in a tournament-style competition. There are pro teams that create rivalries with each other and every game is live broadcasted on Twitch, an extremely popular game streaming website.
Moreover, the best Twitch “shout-casters” (or commentators, as they’re called in the real sports world) will often try to broadcast the tournament in a way similar to a live NBA game: highlights, game analysis, and live interviews. Except this is where the problems begin and why the current stage of eSports will never match up to well established sports like football or hockey. Simply put, eSports is amateur in comparison.
When watching Twitch, too often I feel like it was thrown together at the last moment. It’s basically two teams of scrawny teenagers sitting in front of a computer on a small stage, with a crowd in the background cheering. The broadcasters are cooped up in a tiny little booth and are incredibly cringey most of the time. They don’t even try to act professional about it.
Yet this attracts hundreds of millions of people. Maybe it’s time to start acting professionally. Get the games on TV with broadcasting standards akin to those of the National Hockey League, or any other pro league. There needs to be an umbrella league for all ultra-competitive games, where there are divisions with teams based on geography, As a result, more rivalries will be created. With more media attention, it will drive eSports up into the mainstream.
But first, there needs to be a professional standard.