Today, over 1 billion people watch eSports. To put this into context, this is double the number of people who watch Formula 1 motor racing, 8 times the number for the World Series, and 10 times the number for the 2019 Super Bowl!
Clearly, this type of "sport" has quickly taken the world by storm. But how did it even come about? And how did it manage to disrupt the dominant world of physical sports?
In this article, we'll show you the world of competitive gaming, including its history and some iconic players.
What Is eSports?
As you may have guessed, "eSports" stands for "electronic sports." This is where people play video games competitively.
In the beginning, it was a very niche type of pastime, with only gamers watching eSports. But as time went on, eSports became more and more mainstream.
Today, many casual or non-gamers are avid fans and many bars cater to tournament viewings now. These tournaments are run just like with sports tournaments, with live coverage, commentators, replays, and more.
It may seem like eSports has only just arrived on the scene, but the truth is, it has quite an extensive history. Read on to find out more.
The History of eSports
Believe it or not, the first official eSports tournament happened in the '70s. On October 19, 1972, students at Stanford University held a competition for Spacewar, which was a game from the 1960s. The winner of the very first eSport tournament was Bruce Baumgart.
The prize? One year's subscription to the magazine Rolling Stone.
While that was the first "official" eSports tournament, it wasn't until almost a decade later that eSports arrived on the mainstream scene and attracted the public eye.
In 1980, Ataris put on the Space Invaders Championship; over 10,000 people flocked to this event, which caused quite a stir. Later on in the year, Walter Day created a video gaming world records organization called Twin Galaxies. These two things were the catalysts to video games becoming more and more popular in the mainstream over the next few decades.
Competition Sparked Explosive Growth in the Industry
Atari had a monopoly over video games in the 1980s, but when Nintendo arrived on the scene with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, they became some hot competition for this giant. Next in line was the Sega Genesis, which hit the shelves in 1989.
Nintendo did their part in growing the early eSports scene by holding their own tournaments. They started off with the Nintendo World Championships in 1990, which toured around the entire country. They then held another tournament in 1994 to promote the Super NES (SNES) after its release in 1991.
Real competitive eSports became a reality when ID Software created their first-person shooter (FPS) Quake in 1996. A year later, they put on Red Annihilation, which was one of the first Quake events ID Software held. From this tournament, the first pro gamer was born: Dennis "Thresh" Fong.
eSports Wasn't Just a Western Phenomenon
If you follow eSports, then you'll know that the continent of Asia has a lot of professional gamers; more specifically, South Korea. How did that come to be?
In the late 1990s, much of Asia went through a financial crisis. As a result, much of the youth would hang out at internet cafes, otherwise known as "PC Bangs." Here, they'd all gather to play Blizzard's StarCraft: Brood War and socialize.
Brood War quickly became a national craze, which led to huge competitions in South Korea. The nation became so obsessed that they had gamer houses, where eSports competitors would live together and play StarCraft all day to up their APMs (actions per minute).
Some Iconic Gamers
We already mentioned that the first professional gamer was Thresh. But who else?
Let's take a look at some iconic names in eSports.
Ninja (Richard Tyler Blevins) is an American gamer who first got into eSports by playing Halo 3. However, he rose to extreme popularity in 2017 when he started streaming his gameplay on Fortnite Battle Royale.
Stewie2K (Jacky Yip) is an American Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player. Currently, he's considered one of the best in this game.
He's played for Cloud9, SK Gaming, and Team Liquid.
Dyrus (Marcus Hill) is also an American gamer. He made a name for himself by competing in League of Legends.
In his career, he's played for teams All or Nothing, Epik Gamer, Team SoloMid, Delta Fox, and Meme Stream Team.
Thinking About Joining eSports?
After reading all this, you might be thinking: how do I join eSports? After all, it'd be fantastic to be paid for something you love to do.
But it's not that simple, nor is it that easy.
It's true that it's a lot more accessible nowadays to become a streamer and potentially, an eSports competitor. After all, Twitch has made it very easy to broadcast your gameplay to the masses.
But it takes more than just passion to become one of the best eSports players. You have to live and breathe the game of your choice, and you have to be able to dedicate hours upon hours to practice and improve your skills. You'll also need to work well with others, as you'll most likely have to join a team to make it big.
Watch as Competitive Gaming Takes the World by Storm
There's no doubt about it: competitive gaming is here to stay, and it's here to also take the world by storm. For its humble beginnings in the 1970s to its massive presence today, eSports is a huge industry that'll change how people view "sports" in general.
If you're looking for more information about eSports we recommend reading this comprehensive guide to competitive video gaming.