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Editor’s note: Starting today, the Racine County Eye will start covering high school esports games. We are working closely with the esport teams from the Racine Unified School District. The partnership means that students will write summaries of the games. This helps students learn valuable writing skills in a fun way. We’re excited about the opportunity. But many of you may not know what esports is… so we’ll introduce you to the games.
By Mark Sanders
Esports. Most people have only heard of this, likely through a small news article or hearing their kids or friends casually talk about it for a moment. But what is it? Well, buckle up and keep your hands and feet inside the cart at all times, because this ride is only just getting started and it is certainly going to be a wild one.
Check out our story about the esports teams Racine Unified formed last season.
Esports is a phenomenon, as it’s a global platform that is all-inclusive. Race, religion, gender, financial stance and physical ability do not apply in these venues. This allows for everyone to play without coming against any walls that might prohibit them. Anyone can compete.
The early days of gaming tournaments
While relatively new to the spotlight of the media, it actually began at Stanford University with its very first tournament, the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics (Stanford Magazine, 1972), for the game Spacewar. Back then, however, it wasn’t called “esports.” It was simply tournaments with no moniker. The prize for the very first tournament was a year subscription to Rolling Stone Magazine.
From there, however, it blossomed rather quickly. In 1980, Atari began holding tournaments for their game Space Invaders, which ushered in more than 10,000 people. Those numbers, in a time predating modern communication, were unbelievable for its venue – 10,000 people invested their time in a game to actually compete. This caught the eye of every entertainment platform known at the time, with the biggest eyes being PC developers and the big-wigs at Nintendo.
In 1990, when the internet was finally fleshed out and open to the world, Nintendo held the very first Online Gaming World Tournament, which actually toured across the United States. Before long, everyone was holding these sorts of tournaments. Blockbuster, Gamepro Magazine, Nintendo, Sony, EA Sports, and Blizzard are just a handful of big names that launched esports into the new millennium.
Rocket-fuel + competitive gaming = esports
Esports took off with the growth of technology in 2000. Unlike physical sports, where the “quality” of the games is dictated by plays and athlete’s physical strengths, esports depends on the imagination of artists and developers to create these new types of “Competitive Gaming” platforms.
They have devised esports into four large venues:
- Fighters- These games are two-six player games like Street Fighter, Super Smash Brothers and Mortal Kombat, where players select champions to fight against one another. True mastery of your champions mechanics and mastery of the game is required to win.
- FPS (First Person Shooter)- These games simulate firefights. These can be single-player but are mostly comprised of players who form into two teams to complete some type of objective. Overwatch, Call of Duty and Counterstrike: Global Operations (CS: GO) are the leading titles in this venue.
- RTS (Real-Time Strategy)- Generally Wartime Strategy based games, these games pit players against one another to create and train armies and cities to conquer a map. The leaders in this arena are both Blizzard titles, the games StarCraft II and Warcraft III
- MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)- The games are teamwork focused games that generally entice players to use champions with each other to conquer a team of enemy players who are doing the same. The leaders in this arena are League of Legends and DOTA 2.
There are a few other venues worth mentioning, such as the sports category consisting of games like Madden and NBA 2k19. The racing category consisting of titles such as Forza and Gran Turismo. The battle Arena, which consists of games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PubG) and Fortnite. But the leaders are the aforementioned four above.
Why esports continues to grow
As of 2015, the League of Legends World Championship held more viewers than the Superbowl (NFL) and the World Series (MLB) combined. Teams have formed in every major country that is privately owned by companies such as Samsung, Telecom and Razer. Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and many other major sporting brands have sponsored these teams to place their logos on the jerseys of each prospectively. Computer hardware companies have capitalized on this, and we’ve now seen the birth of icons in the industry, such as Alienware and Turtle Beach. Both the NFL and the NBA are trying their hands in the esports arena with EA’s different sporting games and tournaments therein.
It doesn’t stop there. Due to YouTube, Discord, and Twitch, gamers have devised an entire culture based around esports. Entire television programs are being aired multiple times a week that are designed by these gamers. They get sponsored, just like any given television show, to make their content based around the esport of their choosing.
This “culture” has caught on in youth, as it is predominantly made of teenagers who play. Schools have noticed this on a grand scale. Every major college now has an esports team that is taken just as seriously as their other athletics programs. Scholarships are being issued via these children being sponsored by their high schools.
Robert Morris College in Chicago gave an RUSD student a $9,000 a year scholarship to play the Title “Overwatch,” on their collegiate team. This wave has only just begun, and it is projected to overcast every major sport, including Futbol, (Soccer,) globally. It’s caused the Silicon Valley to bristle with excitement at the potential this holds for the technological age. Even Disney has capitalized on this up and coming sports platform, as you can now watch the OWL (Overwatch League) on their television station Disney XD. Taking primetime slots, no less.
Welcome to the Game.