The Growth of E-sports

By on May 31, 2011

Embrace the new wave of competitive gaming.

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Competitive gaming has been around for quite a long time. Even at the time of Tetris people really enjoyed competing with each other by getting higher scores and thinking of new ways to be the better player. Eventually the competitive gaming scene grew at such a rate in recent years that led to the birth of various large scale events such as Major League Gaming in North America and Dreamhack in Europe. Most importantly however was the creation of WCG or World Cyber Games which became the Olympics of gaming. People from different nations across the globe would come and compete with each others to determine who can come out on top. Over time the term “ competitive gaming” eventually got overshadowed by a much stronger term.

Say hello to E-Sports.

World Cyber Games 2004 held in San Francisco, California

E-sports (Electronic Sports) is defined as the next level of competitive gaming specifically adding the professionalism aspect to it. The term is usually seen as having fully emerged and brought to motion in South Korea. In South Korea, E-Sports are everywhere, literally. You have 2 dedicated TV stations (MBC Game and ongamenet) who broadcast E-sports 24/7. From FPSs like counter-strike 1.6 to RTSs like Starcraft Brood War, E-Sports is engrained into South Korean society.

The most famous E-Sport of all time is of course Starcraft Brood War. Broodwar had the widest audience in all of South Korea and is often called one of the most played games in the country. There are 12 Pro-gaming teams dedicated to playing the game, 2 Individual leagues and 1 large team league, and hours and hours of coverage all day long. The top Broodwar players are celebrities that are as popular , if not more popular, than a lot of Korean movie stars and girl/boy bands. Heck even the Air Force of South Korea has  a Broodwar pro-team and various government officials come from time to time to enjoy watching live Broodwar matches. Essentially Broodwar is sometimes nicknamed “South Korea’s national sport” after Takewando.

Now if you look at the rest of the world and compare what the West has against what South Korea currently has the difference is substantial. However, over the past 1-2 alone the growth and awareness of E-Sports has grown substantially throughout the world most specifically in North America and Western Europe.  The different E-Sports communities have been growing around their niches such as Teamliquid for Broodwar and Starcaft 2, Shoryuken for Street Fighter and Marvel vs Capcom. The corporate investments in E-sports in general has been on a rise too. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of western pro-gaming teams most notably EG ( Evil Geniuses) which have grown to span over a variety of different games. Sponsorship for tournaments and prize pools have also seen the changes such as the NASL ( North American Starleague) having a whopping $400,000 prize pool for the season! It’s just amazing how the West is finally reaching a point where being a professional gamer pays well enough to do it for a living.

Picture of Daigo Umehara after winning the Evo 2009 Street Fighter 4 tournament.

Us in the Middle East have not been left out from the E-Sports magic as the widespread of competitive tournaments (Specifically in the UAE) has been substantial over the past year alone. Starcraft 2 for example developed a healthy community and a series of tournaments with reasonably high prize pools. Kuwait on the other hand has one of the strongest fighting game scenes in the world with even Daigo Umehara paying them a visit to see what these guys have. Although we are nowhere close to what Korea or even the rest of the West has, we are experiences an overall increase in participation and awareness of competitive play.

E-Sports is a brand new baby as its widespread just erupted several years ago. Hence, just like with real babies, it should be well fed and brought up so that it grow to become something none of us have ever expected it to be. People all around the world should support E-Sports in any way possible. Be it playing the games they love, participating in different tournaments, or giving back to the community in any way shape or form.


About

A young zergling from Bahrain dreaming of one day magically morphing into an ultralisk. 20 years old, 2nd year of university, and a lover of all types of games specially RPGs and RTSs.

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