The Next Generation of Sports is Electronic January 7, 2015Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
When I was growing up I had several opportunities during my schooling to participate in extra curricular sports. Basketball, Football, and Baseball were just some of the sport programs the schools I attended offered their students to participate in. Like many students, I participated in these activities when I was in High School. No joke, I was on my High School’s Golf team my freshmen year. I played for a year, discovered I sucked at the game and was not getting any better at it despite how long I had been playing, and decided to pursue other interests in subsequent years. I ended up doing something that wasn’t offered by the school, I played video games. I have no regrets about that decision, as my experiences playing video games inspired me to peruse a career in discovering new media, as well as write countless fictional works I hope to publish one day. Sadly, my schooling did little to encourage any of those accomplishments. In fact, I don’t remember any experiences I had when I was in public school which assisted me in my electronic interests. When the time came for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life I chose to forge my own path. It turns out I was not alone.
Two major things have been happening over the past generation that few have taken a serious notice of. Parents are not allowing their children to participate in physical activities due to the risk of injury, and because of that their children are preferring to spend their time indoors playing video games against each other instead. For the most part, parents are afraid as hell about their children playing sports, especially sports which involve physical contact. Let’s face it, the sports we play are dangerous. Our bodies alone are not built to play them the way they need to be played. We have to wear helmets and heavy padding just to practice football. Baseball players constantly run the risk of being hit in the head with a projectile that can exceed speeds of 100 miles per hour. Tennis players run the risk of elbow injuries due to their elbows bearing the brunt of a tennis ball’s impact hundreds of times in just a single match. It just doesn’t make sense to play these barbaric games, for all we know they’re only still taught to young people out of some sense of tradition. Let’s be honest, they were created at a time where there were few resources available for leisure activities and little to no alternatives, meanwhile studies have shown that video games improve hand-eye coordination, and have no discriminatory physical requirements. Since the wide adoption of Personal Computers and the World Wide Web in the late 90s, our options have exponentially increased, and many, especially the younger generation that grew up being spurned by physical sports, are choosing to do other things with their time. What this has meant is that the interest in traditional sports is dying, and an interest in electronic competitions (eSports) is growing. Websites like Twitch.TV, which allows gamers to broadcast all kinds of video games, saw so much popularity they ended up getting bought by the enormous online retailer Amazon.com. Meanwhile, Golf courses are shutting down all over due to a lack of interest by younger people just as golf’s regular players are literally dying of old age. Interest in the Olympics is also dying out, as few countries are willing to foot the bill for a short-term event that has costs quickly spiraling out of control in exchange for very little payoff and heavy upkeep.
So it has come to a head that colleges would begin to offer scholarships for some of the best video game players in the world. College students competing in online games is nothing new, I can remember during my freshman year at college that all my dorm mates wanted to play were games of StarCraft and Counter Strike, and I was pretty good at playing a newer title, Unreal Tournament 2003. The same computer network that college students use to look up information or type papers is perfectly designed to play multiplayer video games. One of the first video games that offered the chance to connect to other players on other computers was Doom. In the early 90s, Doom‘s shareware version was released and had a higher installation rate than Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system. College students living together in the same dorms discovered that they shared a Local Access Network (LAN) amongst their computers. While this is great if they need to share documents or other files amongst themselves, it has the side effect of offering amazing connection speeds if they wanted to play video games against each other, and they used their networks to play Doom, bringing a lot of college networks to their knees. Some people have also theorized this factor contributed to the success of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s multiplayer. While not a PC title, the Xbox shipped with LAN capabilities (which Microsoft called System Link) and many college dorms were equipped with LANs that worked perfectly with Halo‘s System Link based multiplayer. With that, the floodgates opened and college students all over the world found themselves with tons of options for playing video games that they could not have at home. A year later, Microsoft launched the Xbox Live service, and by the time Halo 2 was released, the players who had so much fun playing against their friends were now ready to bring their games online to play against the whole world. The Xbox became a must-own item for college students, and Halo grew to be one of the biggest franchises in the history of gaming. Now, the same generation that played Doom in college are parents, and they’re sharing their love of video games with their children, and now their children are playing. Games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 have seen huge popularity in modern times. They’re free to download by anyone with a computer, are fun to play, test strategy, and require skill you can only earn through experience to win.
Is it a sport? This is something I’ve heard brought up by the older generation who grew up watching traditional contact sports, and pundits like Bryant Gumbel have made their opinions clear. Their argument is they simply cannot fathom a competition without physical risk being considered a sport. To that I ask what would they call chess competitions? Chess is played in almost every country in the world and requires no physical exertion beyond the stamina needed to sustain yourself through a particularly long game. Video games are very much like chess competitions as they require skill, strategy, and experience to win. Also like chess, video games are developed and played all over the world. In many cases it can take years to become fully familiar with just a single game, just as chess requires time and practice to master. I’m sure Mr. Kazparov would be quite upset to hear that because Deep Blue was not hitting him repeatedly as he was playing chess against it, his contribution to chess in the form of his match against IBM’s computer Deep Blue is not to be championed. Nearly twenty years since that event, Electronic Sports (eSports) have become a multimillion dollar industry. The people who enjoy playing Golf, Football, Hockey, Baseball, or Basketball can watch the NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA where they can witness the best in the world compete in a sport they enjoy. The people who are playing video games want to see the best among us compete as well, the only difference is these gamers have no interest in traditional contact sports, they want to see the games they enjoy have the spotlight and because of that they have flocked to eSports events in droves. Huge events have been held with enormous attendance for many popular game titles ranging from StarCraft 2 to Pokémon. I’m not kidding, a major Pokémon tournament, featuring players from across the entire world, was held in my nation’s capital last year.
More colleges are planning to offer scholarships to gamers as they plan to form their own video game teams. We may be seeing the beginning of our entire industry being accepted by the mainstream. I only have one thing to say about that. What took you so long?