Esports challenge traditional arenas of competition

Cheers erupt from the stadium as the two teams face off, each knowing the only way to claim the championship is by going through the other. Fifteen seconds later one team is dead while the other team pushes on.

A new type of 21st century sport has emerged – esports. Esports are video games where a competitive scene has emerged and people compete just as in physical sports. Esports encompass games of all types such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Super Smash Brothers, Starcraft 2, Counter Strike, and Hearthstone, all with passionate fan bases.

With the rise in popularity of these events, tournaments have emerged which engross thousands in professional level competition. Usually the prize pools are enough for a team or individual to survive. However last summer the International 4, a Dota 2 tournament, had a total prize pool of $10.9 million with first place received half of the pool, and other teams at the main event earning a portion of it depending on where they placed.

What amazed me about this was that the hosting company, Valve (which also owns the game), only contributed 1.6 million, while the Dota 2 community provided the rest through a donation system built into the game. The community as a whole allowed the tournament to have the largest prize pool of its kind, showing how popular these games have become.

This can seem insane, around a $5 million dollar first prize for simply winning a few dozen matches in a computer game, and there is validity in that perception. The concept of winning money for playing a video game can seem strange, or even crazy. However, if you look at other physical sports, many players are paid millions for simply being on the team, sometimes without ever stepping foot on the field.

While I don’t necessarily agree with having such high salaries or prize pools, if someone can earn millions for playing a physical sport, I see no reason why prize pools can’t be that high for virtual sports.

While there are obvious differences between physical sports and esports, at heart they have the same ideas behind them. Both are competitive in nature and have a goal to see what team or who is the best at a game or activity. Also while there are strict rules in physical sports, they can be broken purposefully or accidentally, but in esports, since everything is digital everything is fair as no one can break the computers rules (at least in competitive play which is over a Local Area Network). Both are mainly for entertainment and also bring people together to support a common team or player.

While they both bring people together, one main difference between esports and physical sports is how healthy they can be. Esports professional players have to practice a lot, just like in regular sports, leading to lots of physically inactive time. This can also lead to health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repeated stress injuries, or even mental breakdowns. However, this being said, many of the same issues arise with physical sports, such as repeated stress injuries like tennis elbow, and mental issues also frequently arise. Overall, I feel that both have health issues associated with them, but at least with normal sports players get exercise.

Esports is a growing field in todays society and, like it or not, is a part of our culture. Both esports and physical sports have their own place with a passionate fanbase supporting them. While I personally disagree with having sports players earn million dollar salaries or prize pools, there are many other wastes of money in the world that have less positive aspects.