Gamers or Athletes? Faze win IEM Sydney 2018 – Credit: ESL
To compare traditional sport to esport is like comparing apples to oranges. Each is unique, with many varieties and some people prefer one to the other. However they are both fruit, rather they are both competitive disciplines with large-scale events, massive prize pools, and huge communities. Whilst the debate as to whether esport is legitimate, whether it is a sport and so forth continues, perhaps it’s not about looking the justify whether esport fits in with traditional sport. Instead, that esport is a fully functioning industry which has many parallels to traditional sport. These links are evident in how competition is run through to how organisations brand themselves and sell merchandise. It will become very apparent the differences but also common ground between the two and this will outline why comparing the two is not the right way to approach esport. Esport is new and exciting, ready for the mainstream and is here to stay.
In traditional sport we often associate with our local and national teams, following maybe a couple of different leagues and codes at differing levels. For example, some people may support the Golden State Warriors, who play in the NBA. They also follow the college leagues and occasionally tune into some MLB during the offseason. Of course, traditional sports culture is so ingrained in society, it can be easy to not appreciate the extensive nature of it all. Esport isn’t as far away from this as people would believe; featuring teams at local levels such as teams that play in the AEL where QUT eSport has teams. Looking a little broader, we see teams such as Renegades (Counter-Strike) who have been the flagship Australian team who have been competing internationally for some years now. In terms of broadcasts, the viewing experience parallels mainstream sports media, with improvements that are designed to effectively reach esports fans. Most esport events are an international spectacle, streams and broadcasts are available globally and typically for free. This is just in terms of access internationally, of course, physical attendance to these events is very popular with Australia’s IEM Sydney attracting 7,500 attendees each day this year in May, but internationally these events pull much larger crowds. Overall how esport relates to traditional sport is very clear, but at the same time, esport is also a niche.
TBS Presenting ELEAGUE – Credit: TBS
At the end of the day, esport and sport can be compared, but they are not a like comparison. When the questions such as; “Is this a real sport?” or “Are professional gamers athletes?” arise, the industry responds that we are not like traditional sport and are our own community. Of course, due to vast overlaps, these comparisons will surely continue but esport offers many unique things to its audience. As a whole, it is able to break down barriers in terms of accessibility because we can all play games and there is always a game for us. In the major sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL, there is gender exclusivity in that men and women compete separately. But in many esports such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike, players such as ‘Remilia’ and ‘Juliano’ compete at the same level as the men. Showing esport is perhaps one of the most equal, fair and accessible competitive pursuit available today. With this being said, there is a dilemma that stems from accessibility to esport titles and games and that is technology. This issue will not be solved overnight and it stems from a generational difference in people who’ve grown up with games and those who haven’t like we see today. Each event, live stream, team, player and individual involved has a role to show off what has been built over the years and close this gap.
And what is esport all about? For the consumer, this industry is all about bringing quality and engaging broadcasts to the widest audience possible. It is all about the best of competition and highlighting the peak performance of individuals within the games. It is also a community and platform for expression and creativity seen through the many streamers and content creators that contribute to communicating and bridging esport into the mainstream media.
Esport is here to stay, while it is akin to other sports, its nuances and unique aspects are worth learning. With considerable backing and growth in recent times, there has never been a better time to get involved!