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eSports: The Next Big Thing

E-sports, or competitive gaming, is becoming a worldwide craze. With massive events and competitions attracting millions of enthusiastic spectators, many people are beginning to wonder if video gaming can be regarded as a legitimate sport. Despite the fact that e-sports are not as physically demanding as traditional sports such as football and basketball, the structure, large fan following, and requirements to compete in the competitive gaming scene make it a "genuine" sport.

Before recognizing e-Sports as a legitimate sport, it's critical to have a full picture of the industry. The beginnings of competitive gaming can be traced all the way back to the "golden era of gaming" in the 1980s, when players competed for the best scores in arcades all over the world in games like "Pac-man" and "Donkey Kong" ("History of Competitive Gaming"). This is the first piece of evidence demonstrating how video games created an atmosphere in which competition and enjoyment coexisted. The popularity of video games has risen dramatically in recent years.

For example, a 2008 research found that over 60% of the population of the United States played video games online, a figure that continues to rise as technology and gaming become more widely accepted (Antonucci). Due to increased accessibility, video games are now being played on a far bigger scale, and the competitive environment that arose in the 1980s has evolved into what is now known as e-sports. In recent years, there has been much discussion over whether gaming is simply another hobby or a real sport and career path.

E-Sports has a huge and devoted fan following that spans the world. For example, many individuals in “Japan, America, and Europe” play the Street Fighter and Counter-Strike franchises (Totilo). Riot Games' League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena [MOBA] game, is attempting to elevate e-Sports to the same level as traditional sports. Riot staged the League of Legends Season 2 World Championships in October, bringing together the top teams from across the world for a week of heated battles. The overall champion received $1 million, with a total of $5 million distributed throughout Season 2. Aside from the record-breaking monetary awards, the League of Legends event attracted over 8 million "unique viewers" online, outnumbering the National Hockey League (Heaven and Robinson). Individual e-sports tournaments for the famous real-time strategy game StarCraft 2 attract over 100,000 live spectators in South Korea, in addition to a large number of online viewers (Robinson). Furthermore, the popularity of competitive gaming is expected to continue to rise in 2013. The internet traffic for Imagine Game Network's professional gaming league is "doubling every six months," according to David Ting, the company's creator (qt. in Heaven). Who'd have guessed that playing video games would become such a popular spectator sport?

Competitive gaming is a sport in every sense, with a strong structure, a big fan following, and high skill standards. Only society's antiquated notion of what defines a sport is holding the e-sports sector back. People have failed to appreciate the physical, mental, and "technical brilliance" shown by professional gamers because they have gotten accustomed to the concept that a sport must contain a ball and the players must be athletic (Totilo). ESPN and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must wake up and promote competitive gaming as a legitimate sport. Professional gamers will one day be viewed in the same regard as LeBron James or Aaron Rodgers.

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