Two teams compete up on the big stage, with thousands of cheering fans gathered around them while millions more watch at home. There’s more than just team pride at stake, with millions of dollars on the line. Suddenly, a roar rises from the crowd! One team has prevailed over another dog piling on one each other while cameras swoop in to catch all the drama, for both the winners and losers history and is made. But it wasn’t always like this. Esports as a big business, a $700 million industry for 2017 alone with projections for a revenue of $1.6 Billion by 2021, is a relatively new development, and it’s still growing.
From humble beginnings, Video games played in a tournament fashion is nothing new, you can even find it happening right here on LCCC campus. Gamers lounge Vice President Matthew Williams, who can be found most days in and around the Lounge, located between the College Center and the Center for Ideation and Invention offers his own take, “Video games have a positive effect on culture, it helps to bring people who might not otherwise have socialized out onto the campus, interacting with fellow students and making bonds and friendships.”
It’s from these small gatherings that local tournaments where competitors meet and friendships start and rivalries spark that we get to where we are today. League of Legends is a MOBA-Style game, short for Massive Online Battle Arena, and it has just seen it’s biggest year in esports yet. The largest tournaments played for League, the ‘Worlds Tournament’ had a cash prize pool of $2.25 Million and was watched simultaneously by 200 million people around the world and in person in October 2018. Included in this was Television broadcasts of the actual event, nothing new in Asian countries who have featured other games as part of their normal programming since the 90s but it is making headway here too, with networks like ESPN showing broadcasts of some larger ‘fighting game’ tournaments held in California last year.
What does all of this mean? For LCCC student Jon Ruiz, it means that a dream he held not so long ago is fast becoming a reality. “Tournaments for games that I like, when they get big enough is kinda like Opening day for the Indians, it’s an event.” He continued. “And it’s really cool, that like when I wanted to play video games for a living, it’s not just a dream or something to laugh at, these guys are doing it!” The numbers are on John’s side, esports aren’t just for the hardcore anymore, even those with a passing interest in the medium recognize a name like ‘Ninja’ the same as people who don’t care for Basketball know Lebron or Soccer, Messi.
For advocates like Williams this is all a positive, though he holds some issues with how things are run. “If we want to be taken seriously, there needs to be higher standards, less cheating, Drug tests? You know, having people reign in their behavior, it’s hard to be taken seriously, especially with money on the line with people acting like children.” And for others, like Student Jaden Santiago there are still doubts to how this all bears out. “The coverage is really cool but they aren’t really sports. I don’t think they are.”
With LCCC looking to create an esports club, something that Williams calls “a nice legacy to leave behind.” It’s clear that for some, the decision of whether to take esports seriously or not, has already passed.