With day-to-day life becoming more and more digitized by technology, it is unsurprising that video games have emerged as a globally popular pastime – so much so that competitive gaming is now being recognized as a legitimate sport by much of society.
As older generations come to terms with the rise of eSports, a big question mark hangs over the future of traditional sport and recreation activities.
What is eSports?
The term eSports is short for electronic sports. It involves playing video games in a competitive manner, either as part of a team or individually. Amateur and professional competitions take place worldwide, often in front of virtual and in-person audiences.
Esports spans several video game genres – multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), first-person shooter (FPS), fighting, sports, battle royale and real-time strategy (RTS) games are among the most popular.
There are even real-life sports teams that have an eSports roster. European soccer giants AS Roma, FC Barcelona, and Paris Saint Germain are all heavily involved, as well as US-based sports franchises such as Boston Bruins, Philadelphia 76ers, and Utah Jazz.
Why are eSports so popular?
The gaming industry as a whole has benefited greatly from advances in technology, particularly in the last decade. Not only have games themselves become more sophisticated, but the connectivity between players has been improved massively too.
The internet has allowed gamers to compete in multiplayer competitions from anywhere in the world and live streaming platforms such as Twitch have helped grow audiences beyond the physical event venue.
Another reason why eSports have become so popular is that video games are now such an established part of the younger generation’s social and recreational lives. To them, gaming is no different to playing traditional sports, and watching professionals compete at the highest level of eSports is on a par with being a spectator at a major sporting event in the traditional sense.
Big names from the world of technology and sports have recognized this and have invested millions in sponsorship and event funding.
Where can eSports be played?
At an amateur level, eSports competitions take place mostly online to reduce the costs associated with venue hire. In-person spectator events are typically hosted at a rented leisure facility such as a community gymnasium, but professional competitions will often utilize large conference centers, production studios, and sports arenas in order to accommodate bigger crowds.
What impact are eSports having on the sport & recreation industry?
Gaming is now embedded in youth culture, and the time-consuming nature of this pastime means that traditional sports and recreation activities are getting pushed out of the weekly routine. This trend has been accelerated by external factors too, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many in-person sports were postponed for long periods over the last two years and people have become accustomed to spending more time alone at home, and video games represent an opportunity to pass the time while socializing online.
Sport and Recreation organizations will need to adapt in order to accommodate the ground-shifting consequences of eSport popularity. Rather than competing directly with video games, sport and recreation facilities should embrace the evolving landscape of eSports by opening up facility space for competitive gaming.
What is the future of eSports?
The financial investment in eSports is growing by the day, with sports teams, media firms, game developers and electronics companies all getting onboard.
The target audience is set to expand too – not only because of the ongoing shift in population demographics, but also due to the increasingly blurred line between sports and eSports.
The recent emergence of dedicated eSports arenas is likely to spread globally, giving professional teams a permanent home from which to showcase their skills. In turn, this could lead to more intense international and even intercity rivalries, making eSports a tribal experience, much like mainstream sports such as hockey and football.
The excitement surrounding professional gaming is likely to inspire more amateur competitions, with popularity filtering down to a grassroots level – something that Sport and Recreation organizations could capitalize on if they choose to accommodate eSports activities within their facility portfolio.
In terms of the video games themselves, developers are likely to create more multiplayer titles that are geared towards the eSports community in order to keep audiences engaged long into the future.
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