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Is Gaming Becoming a Sport in the United States?
The amount of video games we consume in society today is undeniably unavoidable. Mobile games like; Candy Crush, Game of War, or Clash of Clans, register daily earnings in the millions and someone is bound to recognize one if not all of these game names. This exposure of gaming to everyday light is ushering in a new and unseen era in gaming, where gaming can be seen as a sport.
Ever since the first two people booted up “Pong” on the Atari 2600, gaming has been competitive. When you think about it, playing a game of soccer isn’t all that different from playing a video game. The objective is always to win the game but the competition in the game and the level of the players can vary. Growing up I played Call of Duty at a fairly competitive level but had no idea how big the competitive gaming industry would become. The growth of this industry can be traced to several factors. The economic growth in the gaming industry is incredible. A more recent role has been taken by “nerd culture” through popular media such as The Big Bang Theory. Gaming has become a part of everyday life for the general public thanks to a lot of people who truly enjoy the gaming culture and want it to be in the limelight.
So what makes video games a source of entertainment that people will watch from home like football or soccer? The answers may surprise you. In July of 2014 “Defense of the Ancients” or DOTA was played by teams around the world with a total prize pool of $10,923,980 US dollars raised. Teams of five will play against each other and end the competition as they head towards the grand finale and the ultimate prize of first place. While this is the fourth tournament of its kind hosted by the game’s producers, it is the first time it has been televised by ESPN 3. ESPN was so pleased with the results of the coverage that it agreed to follow up the following year. It’s crazy to think that we could see video game coverage on SportsCenter in the next few years. Unlike ESPN which only shows you content on competitive gaming during major tournaments, streaming is always available. Twitch TV is the main website that comes to mind. Streaming sites allow content creators to show what’s happening live on their computers to viewers who can join the conversation with a chat group function as they watch their favorite steamers/players play live. The potential for growth through avenues like this is enormous. Just think, you can watch TV shows and chat with fellow fans of the show from around the world with ease, all while being able to interact with the content creators.
We know what gaming is bringing to sports, but what is it keeping away? Well, it’s not long before electronic sports (e-sports) become a household name, at least not in the United States. South Korea may be an example of what’s to come when it comes to eSports in the United States. Say the name “Star Craft” and nine times out of ten, Koreans will know what you’re referring to. The game Star Craft is practically South Korea’s national past time. The game is featured on cable television and is also featured on some apps offered by Microsoft’s Xbox, a direct competitor in the PC gaming market owned by StarCraft. Players in Korea are treated like celebrities, signing autographs, taking photos with fans, and occasionally appearing on talk shows. Now if I start saying this to the average American, the most likely response is “Are you serious?” Is that a big deal over there?” Yes, eSports is already a thriving industry in Korea and, to a lesser extent, China and Japan. So why hasn’t gaming already become a huge industry in the United States where most of these games are made? Do Americans differ from Asian gamers? Like games. Americans like fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty or Counter Strike, while Asian players prefer strategy games like Star Craft or DOTA. The problem with shooters is that less strategy is involved. Think of the two styles as an approach to the game of American football. Both styles are similar to football. There is a clear goal, whereas in strategic games there are ways to counter the moves or choices of other players. Blitz how to approach their goal through technical choices or character choices. There is no right way to approach a defense strategy and the offense can still choose how to approach the situation. Same for shooters. It cannot be said that the techniques used by professionals are theirs There isn’t enough depth in the gameplay to give observers new ideas on how they can apply this to their own gameplay.
Professional gaming is on its way to becoming a real sport in the United States. With airtime on ESPN and the popularity of gaming in everyday life in five or ten years, we’ll probably see a good number of people walking around with team jerseys from eSports. Gaming trends in the US may require drastic changes in gameplay to keep viewers watching and keep people interested, but it’s doable. It will take the work of dedicated fans of the sport to bring gaming into the public eye but from what we have seen over the past few years, it is clear that gaming will be considered a sport in the near future.
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