The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The Backstop: A brave new electronic world

Field set. Opponents waiting. Teammates make a final strategy before the game starts again. Both teams are ready to go. The time is up; the round starts.

Game time.

Welcome to the world of electronic sports, or e-sports as it is often called. E-sports is professional-level, competitive video game playing. The phenomenon of e-sports has existed in various forms for several decades, dating back to the arcade era of video games. But this year, with the World Cyber Games (WCG) celebrating its 10th anniversary as a worldwide video game competition, e-sports are bigger than ever.

Games that make up e-sports tend to be first-person shooters (FPS) or real-time strategies (RTS), and to a lesser extent games in the fighting and racing genres. However, this year both Guitar Hero 5, an increasingly popular music simulation game, and FIFA 10, a soccer game, took a spot at the WCG, according to the organization’s web site.

With growing popularity has come growing respect – and growing criticism. Like many new sports, questions about the validity of e-sports as an actual sport came to the front. It’s even tougher for e-sports due to the relative lack of physical skill needed to perform video games.

Scrutiny notwithstanding, e-sports has a loyal and growing following. There was even a push to feature e-sports as a demonstration sport in the 2008 Olympics, according to CNN.

“I don’t think it’ll ever be in the Olympics, but it definitely shouldn’t be mocked,” said vice president of the GuilCo Gamers junior Johnathan Crass.

Those who might mock e-sports should think about some interesting numbers. Take StarCraft, the professional-level RTS of choice for more than a decade. This game has a huge following in South Korea, with its own special place within the culture. In fact, in 2005 over 120,000 spectators attended a final match for a StarCraft tournament in South Korea. To put that in perspective, less than 80,000 people attended that year’s Super Bowl.

These numbers are not exclusive to South Korea either. HuskyStarcraft and HD are the online handles of a duo of StarCraft commentators who provide commentary on replays of professional StarCraft matches on YouTube. According to NPR, the commentators have over 250,000 subscribers, which is five times more than ESPN’s channel. On average, they get 100,000 views per upload.

There are similar followings for games in the Counter-Strike, Halo, WarCraft, and Madden NFL series, showing the rise of video games as spectator sports. In fact, the last has its own show on ESPN – Madden Nation – with an impressive following.

E-sports might not be a bad career choice, either. This year the WCG gave out $250,000 in prize money.

However, with all this, the world of e-sports must still fight an uphill battle to gain respect.

“I don’t think it will ever be mainstream,” said Crass. “People won’t sit down on Sunday night and watch Halo. But players might not be mocked for playing video games for a living.”

The mainstream might not be quite within the grasp of e-sports fans, but they have managed to carve out a place for themselves. Whether it is valid as a sport or not, e-sports is big, and it is here to stay.



Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *