Look out jocks the nerds are stomping all over your turf! eSports is getting big… Like really big. Like selling out an 80,000 seat arena big. The recent League of Legends World Championship took place in the Beijing National Stadium and sold out within seconds, this is not a small stadium, it was built for the Olympic games. Las Vegas is working on turning a 30,000 square foot nightclub into an eSport arena in the Luxor set to open in early 2018. This all points to the fact that there is money to be made and more to come as the audience for eSports is predicted to reach 580 million by 2020, and Newzoo analysts predict $696 million in in-game revenue by years end and $1.5 billion by 2020 (revenue is made from three main sources, selling content rights to broadcasters, streaming services and event attendance.) But are they sports though? Well, a sport is defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. I know, I know eSport competitors just sit in a chair and click buttons right? A study by Professor Ingo Froböse at the German Sports University conducted on eSports athletes disagrees with you. Froböse’s study found similar conditions to those of “normal” athletes. Professional gamers tend to move at about 400 movements on the mouse and keyboard per minute, which is about four times that of a normal person (git gud noob). They also found that the amount of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) produced during a match is about equal to that of a race car driver’s during a race, as well as a pulse of about 160 to 180 beats per minute the equivalent to the bpm achieved at a very fast run. That sounds pretty physically demanding to me, in fact coaches have begun looking into nutrition programs as well as work outs for their teams with the hope of extending professional gamers careers (which typically end around the mid twenties) another four or five years.
Scientists aren’t the only ones paying attention, some colleges around the world are offering varsity programs for eSports through the National Association for Collegiate eSports (NACE) as well as several scholarships. This comes with a bit of a double edged sword however as eSports has drawn the attention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA is a non-profit organisation that regulates student-athletes. Many argue that the NCAA rules and restrictions simply do not make sense in an eSports world. The amateurism rule in particular states that it does not allow student-athletes to receive prize money above actual and necessary expenses. This is very much a norm of eSports with prize money being in the millions. Another part that makes players nervous is the rule about athletes not being able to make profit off of streaming videos such as Donald De La Haye (a UFC kicker) did on youtube and was ruled ineligible because of it. Streaming is a very large part of eSports with sites such as Twitch specializing in broadcasting player’s streams. That being said, eSports is also often referred to as the wild west, and many believe it needs some serious regulation. Adderall abuse in particular is a a hot topic with some teams claiming all the players are on the drug. Adderall is a drug most typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, taken without an actual need it acts as a stimulant and can make the user feel jittery, hyper and super motivated.
Still not convinced? Well, Japan now allows eSport participants into the country on visas normally reserved for professional athletes, the 2022 Asian Games is featuring eSports as a medal event, professional sports teams are buying up eSport teams left and right (some teams even get all the same privileges as the “real” athletes such as personal nutritionists and trainers) and eSports is even being considered for a medal event in the 2024 Olympics.
eSports has the fans, the sponsorship, world-wide appeal and is gaining the income to take over the sports world. There’s just something special about seeing professional players play the same characters on the same maps that any average person can also play, other than golfers this really isn’t a possibility for other sports fans. So, who’s the nerd now?