If you are an avid casino gaming enthusiast, chances are you have come across the term eSports or eSports betting. While most people have a vague idea what eSports might be, the general consensus is that they are “video games” and in a way, this generalisation is actually correct. The term eSports is simply the shortened name for electronic sports.
So yes, what it comes down to is the competitive sport of computer gaming. So just like football teams play other teams in a league or competition or you play poker against opponents, eSports teams face off against other teams in an online international arena.
A major eSports tournament will take place in a large arena and attract quite a crowd. The bigger tournaments with well-known players have dedicated followers who tune in online to watch the action as it unfolds. And just like professional sport, competitors actually get paid for competing. At an eSports competition, the various teams will compete in different gaming categories with spectators watching on large screens or online. The four main categories include:
- First Person Shooter (FPS)
- Action Real Time Strategy (ARTS)
- Real Time Strategy games (RTS)
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
The Origin of eSports
So how did eSports come about? The concept of competitive gaming has been around since the birth of video games themselves. Even the earliest arcade games were the source of fierce competition. It wasn’t long before friends and siblings challenged each other to best their high scores. The natural progression to organised competitions was inevitable really. Atari held the first official video game competition in 1980. Unsurprisingly it was a Space Invaders Tournament and it attracted more than 10 000 participants.
By the early 1990s, arcade games and personal gaming consoles had become commonplace. A wide net was cast and a new generation of gamers were getting their grubby hands on the joysticks. Companies like Blockbuster and Nintendo started sponsoring world championship competitions. At the time, there were age brackets for children and teenagers. Today, that distinction has fallen away with all participants competing in a single bracket. If you have ever handed a 12-year-old a smartphone, you will have a good idea why everyone is on a level playing field.
Unlike regular sports where physical power, speed and physique are key factors to being an athlete, eSports require mental fortitude, hand-eye-coordination and a bladder of steel. In the mid-1990s, advances in computer technology and faster Internet speeds led to the rise of PC gaming. This in turn, led to the development of true eSports competitions. The first instance of eSports took place in 1997 with the Red Annihilation tournament for “Quake”, the first-person shooter game. It attracted over 2000 participants with the winner receiving a Ferrari, which was previously owned by the lead developer of Quake, John Carmack.
A few weeks after the competition wrapped up, the Cyber-athlete Professional League (CPL) was founded. A few months later, it held its first tournament and within a year it was offering $15,000 in prize money. The CPL became just one of dozens of prominent leagues founded around the same time. It wasn’t until the 2000s that eSports started to come into its own. In the year 2000, both the Electronic Sports World Cup and the World Cyber Games were launched. They have subsequently both become major international tournaments that are held every year.
In 2002, Major League Gaming (MGL) was launched and has gone on to become the largest and most successful of all the eSports leagues. MGL features numerous games and multiple genres from RTS to shooters. They also offer some of the most lavish prizes in the industry. In 2013, the Winter Championships handed out of $70 000 in prize money. Major League Gaming made headlines in 2006 when it held the first eSports tournament to be televised in North America.
Major eSports Tournaments
Today, most eSports tournaments are viewed online. In 2012, the spring eSports championship drew a total of 4 million views, beating the NBA All-star Game in terms of numbers. By 2015, the number of viewers had skyrocketed. The 2015 League of Legends World Championships final attracted more than 35 million viewers worldwide. In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in eSports tournaments.
One major tournament is Dreamhack, a Swedish based computer festival that attracts visitors from all over the world. There is also the South Korean Global StarCraft II league (GSL), which has been doubling its viewership every year since 2010. If the trend continues, it will reach an unprecedented 100 million by the end of 2017. With technology improving at a rapid pace, there is no telling where eSports will be going next.
The gambling industry has also jumped on the bandwagon, offering eSports betting. This is where bettors can place bets on which player or team will win a particular match or competition. Whatever your feelings about eSports, it seems professional online gaming is here to stay.