David Chew explores the new, fast-emerging form of audiovisual entertainment
We all know a gamer. We all have friends, siblings, or significant others (mainly boyfriends) who spend their time tapping away at a computer or console, a pastime which for others, is frankly mind-boggling. What not everyone has heard of however, is that competitive gaming (electronic sports, or e-Sports, for short) exists and is very much alive.
Anything competitive begins as something casual, and the same goes for gaming. As gamers got better and more competitive at their games, the divide between casual and competitive gaming grew. It was in the early 2000s that e-Sports truly started becoming a reality. One key trailblazer that propelled gaming into the realm of competition was Starcraft: Brood War, which flourished and brought e-Sports into the mainstream in South Korea, and arguably, the world. It was released in 1998 for the PC and is of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre.
In an RTS game, the player acts as a commander of an army, collecting resources and building up and army to defeat his opponent. RTS games are known to be incredibly difficult to master: talent and consistent practice are both required to be extremely good at the game. It was a game that separated the pro-level players from the average gamer. Support for e-Sports also played a key role in the shift to competitive gaming, with Starcraft tournaments offering sizable prize money (for instance, the Korean gamer BoxeR took home $20,000 USD in 2001 for winning the World Cyber Games). Fans all over the country would watch their favourite gamers, which attracted large Korean corporations such as Samsung and SK Telecom to start sponsoring players, making it financially sustainable for gamers to go pro.
Developments in South Korea paved the way for many other games around the world and demonstrated that e-Sports had potential to become a new form of entertainment that was also financially attractive for investors, a potential that it has lived up to. According to market intelligence covering games and e-Sports market website Newzoo.com, e-Sports is expected to generate $660M in revenue in 2017 and shows no sign of slowing down. This industry is here for good, so expect to be invited to a live-viewing of e-Sports soon.
Featured image credit: Twinfinite