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Is Gaming Becoming a Sport in the United States?
The amount of video game usage we see in today’s society is arguably unstoppable. Mobile games such as; Candy Crush, Game of War, or Clash of Clans have multi-million daily earnings, and someone is bound to recognize one, if not all, of these game names. This exposure to gaming in everyday light seems to bring about a new, unheard-of era in gaming, where gaming could be considered a sport.
Ever since the first two people started “Pong” on the Atari 2600, the game has been competitive. When you think about it, playing football and playing a video game are not that different. The goal is always to win the game, but the level of competition and the players in the game may vary. Growing up, I played Call of Duty on a fairly competitive level, but I had no idea how big the competitive gaming industry would grow. The growth of this industry can be attributed to a number of factors. The financial growth of the gaming industry has been incredible. The recent position that “nerd culture” has taken in popular media through means such as The Big Bang Theory. Pressure from people who genuinely appreciate gaming culture and want to see it gain a place in the limelight has brought gaming into the everyday lives of the general public.
So what is making video games turn into a source of entertainment that people would watch from home like they would football or football? The answers might surprise you. In July 2014, “Defense of the Ancients” or DOTA was played by teams around the world for a community prize pool totaling US$10,923,980. Teams of five would play against each other and eliminate the competition as they headed to the Grand Finals and the ultimate prize of first place. Although this is the fourth such tournament hosted by the game makers, it was the first time it was televised by ESPN 3. ESPN was so pleased with the results of the coverage that they agreed to follow the following year. It’s crazy to think that in the next few years we might see video game coverage on Sports Center. Unlike ESPN which only shows you content about competitive games during major tournaments, streaming is available all the time. Twitch TV being the main website that comes to mind. Streaming sites allow content creators to show what’s happening live on their computers to an audience who can join the conversation with a group chat feature while watching their favorite steamers/players play live. The potential for growth through an avenue like this is enormous. Just think that you could watch a TV show and chat with other fans of the show around the world with great ease, while being able to communicate with the content creators.
We know what brings the game into the sports arena, but what stops it? Well, it’s just not quite time for electronic sports (E-Sports) to become a household name, at least not in the United States. South Korea is perhaps an example of what is to come in terms of esports in the United States. Say the name “Star Craft” and nine times out of ten a Korean will know what you are referring to. Star Craft game is practically a national pastime of South Korea. The game is featured on cable television and is even featured on a few apps offered by Microsoft’s Xbox, which is a direct competitor to the PC gaming market to which Star Craft belongs. Players in Korea are treated like celebrities, signing autographs, taking photos with fans and occasionally appearing on talk shows. Now, if I were to say that to the average American, more than likely the answer would be “Are you serious?” “Is that a big deal there?” Yes, esports in Korea and, to a lesser extent, China and Japan are already booming industries. So why isn’t gaming already become a big industry in the United States where most of these Americans tend to like different games than Asian gamers.Americans tend to like fast-paced shooters, such as Call of Duty or Counter Strike, while that Asian gamers tend to favor strategic games such as Star Craft or DOTA. The problem with shooters is that less strategy is involved. Think of both genres as an approach to a game of American Football. So that both genres have a well-defined objective as in football, strategic games offer ways to counter other players’ movements or their choice of how to move towards their objective via technological choices or character choices. In soccer, if the defense sends a blitz, you try to counter that blitz by running the ball to a receiver who is open, or running the ball in the opposite direction of the blitz. There is no right way to approach defense strategy, and offense can always make choices about how to approach the situation. The same can’t be said for shooters, there just isn’t enough depth in the gameplay to give watchers new ideas of how they can apply the techniques used by the pros in their own gameplay.
Professional gambling is on the way to becoming a real sport in the United States. With the airtime on ESPN and thanks to the popularization of the game in everyday life within five or ten years, we could see a good part of people walking around with the esports team jerseys. Due to gaming trends in the United States, it will likely take some drastic gameplay changes to keep viewers watching and engage more audiences, but it’s doable. It will take the work of dedicated fans of the sport to push the game further into the public eye, but from what we’ve seen over the past few years, it’s clear that the game will be seen as a sport in a near future.
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