Competetive esports are here to stay

By Ivan Mateo

What do the Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots, FC Barcelona and SK Telecom T1 have in common? These are all organizations that have reached the pinnacle and won in their respective leagues. The Lakers have won in the NBA. The Patriots have won in the NFL. FC Barcelona have won in La Liga and the Champions League. You may be asking yourself who SK Telecom T1 is. SKT1 is an esports “League of Legends” team from Korea “a team that won the world championship a couple times.

While SKT1 might not be a household name yet, don’t hold your breath. Esports are here to stay.

What the heck is an esport? An esport, or competitive gaming, is a sport played primarily through electronic means such as video game systems and personal computers.

“League of Legends” is a video game where a team consisting of five players cooperate with one another by assembling a team of characters to battle against another team of five players. The goal of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s nexus or main base to achieve total victory.

LoL is a type of multiplayer online battle arena game. There are many other esports, though. “Counter-Strike” and “Halo” make up some of the first-person shooter genre, while the fighting game genre consists of titles such as “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Super Smash Bros.”

I have actually been to some of these LoL tournaments live, and the crowd is easily swayed to the machinations occurring inside the many wrinkles of the game. Many similarities are shared between traditional sports and esports. There is money from ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise to be made. Fans wear team jerseys to cheer their teams on. Some fans even dress up in full costume and cosplay as their favorite in game LoL characters.

One cool and interesting aspect of esports happened in 2011 with the launch of Twitch, an online video streaming website focused on people playing video games. For a second, imagine being able to watch Kobe Bryant shooting hoops in the gym or training for his next game all while interacting with users watching him broadcast. Twitch functions similarly except in a video game setting. Millions of users utilize the platform to watch their favorite gamers play video games like LoL or “Counter-Strike” or to see the next big tournament.

Nowadays, various websites such as Polygon, IGN and Yahoo! cover certain esports. ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports news, recently entered into the foray of esports by dedicating a section of their website to gaming news alongside other sports leagues like the NBA, NFL and MLB.

Some of the biggest names in sports history have graced the courts of Madison Square Garden and Mandalay Bay. Now, esports athletes have stepped on these courts, too. Madison Square Garden in New York City, Staples Center in Los Angeles, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and KeyArena in Seattle are some of the high profile places esports events have been held at.

The esport industry continually grows. Some colleges have even begun to offer scholarships to LoL players. Robert Morris University and UC Irvine are some universities introducing programs to promote esports scholarships.

Everyone outside video games has taken notice. Sponsors for esport teams and leagues are not solely video gaming brands like SteelSeries and Razer anymore. There are big name sponsors like Nissan, New Balance, Red Bull and Bud Light actively serving as sponsors for esports teams and leagues nowadays.

Even people inside the traditional sports world are finding ways to venture into the world of competitive gaming. They know it is not some fad or joke that will not last. Esports has come to play.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has praised the eSports scene in the past, especially LoL. NBA players like Shaquille O’Neal have invested in LoL teams like Team NRG. Rick Fox, former Laker champion, even bought a team; they were named Echo Fox. German soccer club, FC Schalke 04, recently purchased a LoL team spot.

DOTA2, another MOBA game, hosts a huge tournament every year called “The International” with the top victor earning over $1 million. No big deal.

Can video games come close enough to replicate what traditional sports are? Can they maybe even join the ranks of other traditional sports? I don’t see why not, but does it really matter? As long as there is entertainment value and money being generated, people will continue to watch and most definitely listen.

Courtesy of League of Legends Championship League

‘League of Legends’

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