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Is Gaming Becoming a Sport in the United States?
The amount of video game use we see in today’s society is undoubtedly inevitable. Mobile games such as; Candy Crush, Game of War or Clash of Clans record daily revenues in the millions, and someone will surely recognize one if not all of the game names. This exposure to gaming in everyday light seems to usher in a new and unprecedented era in gaming, where gaming can be seen as a sport.
Ever since the first two people started “Pong” on the Atari 2600, gaming has been competitive. When you think about it, playing soccer and playing a video game aren’t that different. The goal is always to win the game, but the level of competition and players in the game can vary. Growing up, I played Call of Duty at a fairly competitive level, but I had no idea how big the competitive gaming industry would become. The growth of this industry can be traced to a number of factors. The financial growth in the gaming industry is incredible. A recent stance that “nerd culture” has taken in popular media through such means as The Big Bang Theory. The push from people who truly enjoy gaming culture and want to see it gain a place in the spotlight has brought gaming into everyday life for the general public.
So what is causing video games to become a source of entertainment that people would watch from home like soccer or football? The answers might surprise you. In July 2014, Defense of the Ancients, or DOTA, was played by teams around the world for a community-raised prize pool totaling US$10,923,980. Teams of five would play against each other and eliminate the competition as they moved towards the grand finals and the ultimate prize for first place. Although this was the fourth tournament of its kind hosted by Game Makers, it was the first time it was broadcast by ESPN 3. ESPN was so pleased with the results of the coverage that they agreed to follow it the following year. It’s crazy to think that we could see video game coverage on SportsCenter in the next few years. Unlike ESPN, which only shows you competitive game content during major tournaments, streaming is available all the time. Twitch TV is the main website that comes to mind. Streaming sites allow content creators to show what’s happening live on their computers to an audience who can join the conversation with a group chat feature while watching their favorite doubles/players play live. The potential for growth through this route is huge. Just imagine, you could watch the TV show and chat with other fans of the show from all over the world with great ease, while also being able to interact with the content creators.
We know what brings games into the sports arena, but what stops them? Well, it’s just not the time for electronic sports (E-Sports) to become famous, at least not in the United States. South Korea may be an example of what’s to come in terms of eSports in the United States. Say the name “Star Craft” and nine times out of ten, a Korean will know what you mean. The game Star Craft is practically the national past of South Korea. The game was featured on cable TV and was even featured in several apps offered by Microsoft Xbox, which is a direct competitor to the PC gaming market that Star Craft belongs to. Players in Korea are treated like celebrities, signing autographs, taking pictures with fans and occasionally appearing on talk shows. Now, if I were to say this to the average American, more than likely the response would be something along the lines of “Are you serious?” Is it such a big deal there?” Yes, eSports in Korea and to a lesser extent, China and Japan are already booming industries. So why hasn’t gaming already become a big industry in the United States where most of these games are made? Americans like different games from Asian players. Americans like fast-paced shooters, such as Call of Duty or Counter Strike, while Asian players prefer strategy games such as Star Craft or DOTA. The problem with shooters is that there is less strategy involved. Think of these two genres as an American approach to gaming soccer. While both genres have a well-defined goal like soccer, strategy games feature ways to counter other players’ moves or choices. how to move toward your goal through technical choices or character choices. In soccer, if the defense sends a blitz, you try to counter that blitz by getting the ball to an open receiver or running the ball in the opposite direction of the blitz. That’s not the right way to approach the defense strategy, and the offense still can choose how to approach the situation. The same can’t be said for shooters, there just isn’t enough depth to the game to give viewers new ideas on how they can apply the techniques used by the pros to their own game.
Professional gaming is on its way to becoming a true sport in the United States. With broadcast times on ESPN and the popularization of games in everyday life within five or ten years we could see a good portion of people walking around with E-sports team jerseys. Due to gaming trends in the US, radical changes to the game will likely be required to keep viewers watching and attract more public interest, but it’s doable. It will take the work of dedicated sports fans to push gaming further into the public eye, but from what we’ve seen over the past few years, it’s clear that gaming will be considered a sport in the near future.
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