Video games: the new global spectator sport

by Toby Manhire / 24 January, 2013
Multimillion-dollar prize pools, huge crowds, and excitable commentators - "e-sports" are on the ascendant.
Deep Sea Kog'Maw from League of Legends.

Video games are becoming a spectator sport.

“Professional gaming, or e-sports, exploded in popularity in the US and Europe last year,” reports the New Scientist.

Already, top players in Asia have attained superstar status, “earning six-figure salaries and competing for rock-star glory”.

And they’re catching up in the west, as illustrated by last October’s world championship of League of Legends, “a team-based game in which players defend respective corners of a fantasy-themed battle arena”.

All of it comes complete with league tables, fan favourites, and hoarse, excitable commentators.

The Los Angeles event boasted a prize pool of $5 million, and attracted an audience of more than eight million on TV and online - “a figure that dwarfs audience numbers for broadcasts of many traditional sports fixtures”.

Daft? Not so fast, cautions the New Scientist in an editorial in the same edition.

Players are often extraordinarily skilful and tournaments can be as gripping as any major sporting eventIt is worth remembering that today's spectator sports evolved from pastimes that people also happened to enjoy watching. Sports are just combinations of made-up rules, often absurd, designed for one purpose: to produce a compelling contest. Why can't video games grab a slice of that action?

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