eSports Entertainment is Done Playing Games


Although eSports require limited physical exertion, the sport has grossed billions of dollars in revenue and is still growing (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Andrea Garcia

Although eSports require limited physical exertion, the sport has grossed billions of dollars in revenue and is still growing. (Courtesy of Flickr)

When I think of professional sports, I think of elite athletes who dedicate their bodies to their sport and train for hours, with winning as the only thing on their minds. I hear stadiums bursting with noise and dedicated fans cheering on their favorite teams and athletes.

Now, when I think of video games, I think of teenagers with headsets, fighting for the last piece of pizza and chugging energy drinks with the screen glowing on their faces in isolated basements. I don’t think of never-ending rows of gamers, clicking away on remote buttons with their eyes glued to a screen.

The development of eSports has somehow combined the two. As a growing $493 million industry, eSports has breached its way into the professional sports world, the college atmosphere and potentially, the Olympic level. The basic premise of eSports is that teams or individuals compete against each other in video game tournaments. Any game that produces a winner or a loser can be played in an eSports tournament, but the most commonly played game is League of Legends. Tournaments with hundreds of thousands of dollars as a prize held in extravagant arenas have turned eSports, an ironically remote sport, into a spectator event.

eSports had developed a unique following within the industry, most fans falling under the gamer stereotype. According to a Nielsen Report titled “eSports Playbook,” “eSports fans follow an average of 5.7 different games and 2.6 genres — a testament to the diversity of games and the fact that gamers aren’t wedded to just a single game.” These fans will travel to stadiums around the world.

According to the same report, when fans were asked multiple questions on the future of eSports, 71 percent thought that eSports would become a mainstream activity in the near future. 53 percent considered eSports to be an actual sport. 41 percent thought eSports should be a collegiate-level sport; however, only 28 percent of eSports fans across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany thought that eSports should be an Olympic Sport. There is a never-ending debate as to whether or not eSports can be considered an actual sport, but that debate would not change the fact that 17 colleges and universities across the United States include eSports as a varsity-level sport. These universities, mostly situated in the Midwest, not only have varsity-level eSports programs, but also offer scholarships to eSport “athletes.”

In addition, many nationally-ranked schools have competitive gaming clubs that are on track to becoming varsity teams. Nonetheless, these gaming clubs also compete at the collegiate level, including Ivy League members, Columbia and Harvard Universities; PAC-12 member; University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA); and lastly a Big Ten member, University of Maryland, who won the Big Ten Championship this past March.

College eSports has become an exponentially growing field with fan support. However, the fact that only 28 percent of existing eSports fans think that it should be included on the Olympic level draws a line, indicating the limit of where eSports might not flourish. Discussions in favor of eSports reaching the Olympic level suggest that such eSport competitions could be officially introduced as early as the 2024 Paris games. From a business standpoint, eSports would be a great addition in the Olympic Games.

According to Forbes, eSports has brought in over 600 signed sponsorships to varied leagues and tournaments since the start of 2016. Many of these companies, such as Red Bull and McDonalds have histories for sponsoring the Olympic Games. From an entertainment standpoint, eSports has a limited fan base, and I wouldn’t foresee NBC, the official television broadcaster of the Olympics, giving an on-air spot to eSports next to traditional sports that have been included in multiple Olympic cycles or have gone through the process to be entered as an official Olympic-sponsored sport.

I wouldn’t imagine an olympic eSports match as competition for the most watched sports of the Olympics according to Adweek, such as gymnastics, swimming, watersports, track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer and tennis. The main difference between eSports and the most-watched sports is the lack of physical exertion in playing video games. The thrill of seeing athletes in the moment and competing at their physical best is what makes the Olympics a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Imagine having to compare the successes of Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and the historical greats to a professional video gamer.

While training to be an eSport athlete takes training and has its merits, an eSport doesn’t have the same entertainment value as a traditional Olympic sport. True fans of eSports will continue to watch tournaments at any level, but it might not be as easy to attract fans to a niche event. eSports has come a long way as an industry and presents an interesting case for business as far as events, tournaments, sponsorships and advertisements are concerned. While I see the industry continuing success at the collegiate and professional-league levels, I do not think that they will reach the Olympic level in the next planned cycles.

Andrea Garcia, FCRH ’18, is a journalism and political science major from West Milford, New Jersey.