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Articles > Gaming August, 11, 2014

A new breed of athletes: eSports

Liam Sorta
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Now, if you’re a non-gamer or more of a ‘single player adventurist’ then you may not have heard of the rapidly growing eSports, the community that is redefining the term ‘athlete’.

I’m sure you’re already probably thinking something along the lines of: “Playing games isn’t a sport”, well, by definition under the U.S. Government, you’re wrong! About a year ago, the U.S. has announced that it recognises eSports players as professional athletes and those competing will receive the benefits of any other sport. Over the past few years, eSports has been gaining more and more support from gamers worldwide. The most popular game of its kind is League of Legends, a simplified yet more polished version of DotA2. League of Legends currently holds its place on the list by managing to maintain an average of 28 million unique users per day.


Fan art – Photo By Mike Azevedo

Riot Games (The developers behind the LoL) hired and sold out the Staples Centre in 2013 for the World Championship in just an hour, this and the smaller events held by Riot Games are all televised online for users to watch for free. Quick sidenote, the championship was watched by over 32 million people in total worldwide over the course of the event, 8 million peak viewership at once. DotA2 is a close second with its championship reaching 1 million simultaneous viewers.

At the time of writing, the prize pool for the 2014 DotA2 championship is nearing $11,000,00. Yes, 11 million dollars! The best part about this is the way the prize pool is put together – users can buy an in-game item that will add an extra $2.50 the to pool as well as give them bonuses depending on how many other players do the same.  The concept of players deciding how big-small the prize pool will be is an amazing concept and one that greatly reflects the eSports community.

What we see in eSports that you don’t see in most other sports is the interaction with the fans. Sure, there are some athletes out there right now that devote a lot of their time and energy into fans and that’s great! But there isn’t enough of them, whereas in eSports, almost every competitive player have daily live streams that allow fans to directly chat with their favourite team member. eSport event casters and company staff members also do their part in interacting with the audience, even putting together professional standard content but with a comedic twist. A great example of this would be Riot Games putting together a single round tournament where the two highest rated teams went against each other but with no limit on their playable character’s abilities.

What I find the most impressive of all however, is the community. Games such as LoL, DotA2, Smite, etc all have a great reputation for their awe-inspiring communities. For examples fans have created short films, life-sized sculptures, detailed artwork, cast-iron weapons and so much more! To list them all would be an article on its own. It’s fair to say that the eSports community has a lot to offer, something that I can’t wait to see evolve as the sport itself does.

eSports is becoming more and more well known by the day and with the inclusion of eSports-based scholarships and bars that are dedicated to showing eSports coverage (There’s one in London!) we’re hopefully going to see an all new breed of both athlete and sports fan and while it may never be as popular as traditional sports, it paves the way for allowing them both to co-exist.

Have you heard of the eSports community? What do you make of it so far? Do you agree that eSports players should be deemed athletes?

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  1. doven gardon

    i wonder if eSports in the future is used for world war..

    Boom tsew tsew.. 😀

  2. Zak Mahamed

    I remember watching the season 2 league of legends finals and thinking “wow theirs a lot of people watching this”. 2 years down the line and with the season 4 world championship about to begin, i expect even more people to be watching.

    Only time will tell how long it takes for esports to be recognised as a sport worldwide.

  3. Alex Clarke

    It is crazy how much eSports has grown in recent years. Streaming sites such as Twitch have definitely helped with that as its allows people to watch the pros play and learn from them.

    I went to the Wembley Arena this year to watch the League of Legends road trip event where the teams competed as usual, the scale of the production was huge and the crowd made it 10x better.
    I believe eSports should be recognised and spoken about more as the players themselves go through tougher regimes than some top athletes!

  4. Andrew Chan

    Gaming has been growing so rapidly, it’s not that surprising how much success esports has been receiving. Although I don’t completely agree on esports players being considered athletes, there are however some aspects of an athletes’ characteristics in esports players. Such as the amount of training that is required in order to complete, the amount of focus needed to play serveral matches within a scheduled amount of time. I hope esports coverage continues to grow so that one day I will actually go to a bar and enjoy myself.

  5. Darren Paner

    As much as I am impressed by the communities of the games mentioned, they all have a very dark side of toxicity which is harmful to new players, which could cause aspiring gamers aiming for the top to shy away from the challenge.

    In fact there were several professional League of Legends players that had to be disciplined by Riot themselves, giving their accounts a lifetime ban plus a timed ban on participating in tournaments.

    I’m glad that they’re now less tolerant on toxic behaviour in-game now.

  6. Jon


  7. Jon

    Its crazy to consider computer game players as athletes. I agree that it should be celebrated in its own right, but if we consider video games as sports, we change the whole meaning of sport and dilute the distinction between active sports and passive video games.