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The Ascension of e-SportsOpinion

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Michael Luck / Sat 30th Apr 2016
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The Ascension of e-Sports

From basement LAN events to grandiose stadium set finals, e-Sports has exploded in a majestic fashion in recent years and has become nothing less than a global phenomenon. 

It was only a matter of time before e-Sports demanded the respect that it has long deserved. Organised competition has been an integral aspect of gaming for many years, and recent pushes by game developers. With the support of a global viewership, professional gaming is considered a viable career option for the best amongst our ranks. This year Dota 2 developers Valve, hosted the biggest e-Sports prize pool to date with a staggering $18million for their 2015 tournament, The International in early August. North American team Evil Geniuses were the eventual champions, making off with a cool $6.6million after their victory over Chinese team CDEC Gaming. 

Recent implementation of e-Sports betting through major bookmaking companies marks a major milestone in the transition of professional e-Sports toward the mainstream. Australia's biggest corporate bookmakers Sportsbet have recently become the latest to cash in on the rising popularity of e-Sports within the gaming community. The online bookmakers are currently offering Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Starcraft 2 and League of Legends betting on upcoming events in each respective game. 

The direction of game developers to integrate features which facilitate and promote high level competition has been a key to e-Sports growth. The most obvious examples of this can be seen in games such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive which offer services to spectate high ranked players in public matches and e-Sport competitions through in game streaming services. Valve has taken great strides in their ability to market major competitive teams through the accessibility of gun stickers, allowing players to advertise teams to other people who may not be aware of the large competitive environment available at the highest level. These are just a few of the countless examples of how game developers have been influencing the promotion of e-Sports. 

As game developers have been steering this competitive ship, they have been accompanied by the welcoming and supportive arms of the gaming community. In 2013 over 32 million viewers tuned into the League of Legends World Championship finals to see who would end up winning the inaugural Summoners Cup. To give some perspective this is almost double that to the 2013 viewer count of the NBA finals. 

Without a doubt, the large success of e-Sports is due to the effect of third-party websites like Twitch, by providing an excellent medium for the streaming of tournaments and the promotion of professional teams. With streaming quickly taking over cable television as the number one source of entertainment, e-Sports is already prepared for audiences from mainstream television and has a head-start to appealing to the transitioning viewer base. 

Unfortunately, people who are not informed on the current state of the culture of gaming still maintain great prejudice and levels of cognitive dissonance when e-Sports branches into the mainstream sporting scene. This was seen recently when sports network ESPN2 broadcasted the final round of Blizzard Entertainment's Heroes of the Dorm tournament. Primary complaints from ESPN2 viewers pertained to the semantical argument of what constitutes a sport. Now that question in relation to e-Sports is a complete other topic by itself, however the primary lesson from this is that it is going to take a while to bridge the generational gap of the older demographic who have not had the exposure to or have the capacity to understand the current rise in gaming culture and e-Sports.

Growing numbers of gamers within western society shows that the demographic of e-Sports will grow rapidly. The beauty of gaming is that almost anyone can pick up a game and be good at it with enough time, practice and effort. With this we can see how easily the competitor pool for e-Sports can grow and build a competitive environment at an amateur and collegiate level. In the large scheme of things electronic sports are very young in comparison to other forms of competition which date back centuries such as chess and football. Because of this it is going to take time as well as continued investment from e-Sport corporations such as ESL and MLG to promote this culture. 

Gaming and e-Sports is not in the same place that it was a decade ago, and with the continued demand for e-Sports entertainment and support from game developers and sponsors the future of this community has only one place to go, and that's up. 
Originally posted September 22nd, 2015.

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