Industry's competitive side brings new game technologies to spotlight

Though a far cry from the sporting world Americans are familiar with, an onset of new technologies and burgeoning communities may soon thrust e-sports directly into the public spotlight. Whether the more conventional fighting and strategy games, shooters or the rising genre of MOBA, the competitive aspects of modern games are being brought out via online streams, massive tournaments and worldwide power struggles.

From arcade and pinball tournaments in the 1980s and on, to the establishment of North America’s professional e-sports organization in 2002, Major League Gaming, e-sports have existed within the gaming community of the United States. These kinds of organizations have provided an avenue for gamers to test their mettle against each other in a formal competitive format and bring an ounce of credence to the childhood dream-job of “professional video game player.”

Today the industry has blossomed into a market valued at over hundreds of billions of dollars and broken back into the mainstream to stay. With a massive install base, though split across platforms, a fair percentage of what would be considered “hardcore gamers,” and the massive infrastructure already in place to support multi-player functionality, the groundwork has certainly been laid for large-scale e-sport gaming.

This said, expectations may have to be tempered. South Korea, the undisputed capitol of modern e-sports, and its premier game “StarCraft” have shown what gaming would look like on the scale of our American professional sports leagues. Premier matches are televised, top players are superstars making six-figures, and water-cooler talk revolves around Zerg rushes and builds over touchdowns and interceptions. For a variety of geographical and cultural circumstances, “StarCraft,” or any other game in the foreseeable future, won’t become America’s new pastime, just as American football won’t be overtaking Seoul.

A mass of Americans grows up, not only watching the major leagues and sports within the country, but playing them. A mix of familiarity and nostalgia well prepare us to be your everyday sports fan. This experience is unquestionably replicated in our youth’s current upbringing. Beyond this, gaming has an advantage in that, while very few football fans are throwing on a helmet and pads every week, gamers are of all demographics and abilities. This low barrier of entry is of course advantageous, but also brings a certain aspect of volatility as well, where everyone can be an armchair quarterback, and much of the discussion around e-sports takes place behind internet anonymity.

It’s clear from the past few years that the communities behind online games have blown up, behind the strength of advanced and user-friendly infrastructures and the rise of streaming platforms such as twitch.tv. As these avenues continue to expand and the audience for games sinks deeper into the mainstream, there may be a rising competitor for airtime and poster space in the coming years.

 

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