How eSports and traditional sports compare

Esports, maybe you’ve heard a lot about them, but most people have no idea what they are or why they’re popular. For people who aren’t familiar with video games, it might seem confusing why people would want to watch someone play a game that they could just play by themselves. If you think about the premise though, it’s very similar to “real” sports.

Let’s just start with the premise of the competition and tournaments. In traditional sports, teams compete through a long regular season where they play games weekly, and at the end of the season whoever is at the top of the standings will advance to the playoffs, and perhaps the championships. In most eSports, it works almost exactly the same. For example, in the extremely popular eSport, League of Legends, there is a six month long regular season, and a world tournament at the end of the year. So, just by the basic structure of the leagues and competition, the two entities are similar.

Another way that traditional sports and eSports are similar is the formalities of competition. You may think that video game tournaments are just messy, loud rooms filled with nerds staring at screens, but in reality it’s a highly organized event. Teams wear jerseys, shake hands, have equipment sponsors, coaches, substitutes, referees, announcers, and large live audiences. All these things exist in both sporting realms. It was through obtaining these things that eSports was able to get the attention of big investors, and become the nightmare of traditional TV producers.

One way that eSports have gained recognition is just the sheer number of people that love and watch them. Online viewership for eSports happens on video game streaming websites like Twitch and YouTube and has skyrocketed in the past few years with events like the Counter Strike Global Offensive championships garnering 2.2 million concurrent viewers (1.2 million off the internet and 1 million people on TV, according to dextro.com), smashing the record for concurrent viewers of any eSport. The way that professional video gaming is able to attract so much attention is through their platform. People who play their game will see notifications for an ongoing eSport event when they log in, allowing the companies to target an audience they know will be interested in watching the matches.

A final way to compare traditional sports and eSports is the players themselves, but obviously physical athletes are much more in shape than the average eSports competitor so let’s consider the training hours. Most sports teams will spend up to 5 hours a day training, working out, revising strategy and reviewing film. The average eSports team spends 9-12 hours a day training, and although playing video games may not be as strenuous physically it can a exhausting, draining effect, and the players have to pour just as much energy and focus into their work as other athletes do. A big concern for physical athletes is injuries, but those do happen in eSports as well. The most common sorts of injuries are wrist, finger, and elbow, but often mental injuries can occur as well. When you play a seemingly silly game in front of 12,000 people, for 10 million dollars (basically your only chance of getting a real salary that year), after training for 12 hours a day stress related problems often happen. Recently a big victory was scored for all of eSports when Riot Games lobbied the US Citizen and Immigration Services to make P-1 athletic visas available to professional gamers, to allow them to traverse from tournament to tournament easily.

Recently, eSports have been gaining more recognition throughout the world, and as time goes on the industry will only grow. The biggest question surrounding eSports today is whether they will ever be able to compete with the likes of the NFL and other major sports leagues. In my honest opinion, those sports will never be topped by video games, but maybe, someday, the two could be equal.

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