When I was in elementary school, I used to spend recess every day playing basketball with my group of friends. As I got older and moved into middle school a year earlier than the rest of them, my enthusiasm for the sport began to wane as I spent less time outdoors playing sports with my friends and more time staying at home inside playing video games. Eventually, I completely lost interest. Nowadays, however, I find myself with a renewed interest. Why? Ultimately, it’s because of eSports, and games like League of Legends.
If you’ve been paying attention to video games over the past few years, you’re probably familiar with eSports, the competitive side of gaming. Video games have always been competitive — just look at GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64, or to use an example that’s a bit more dated, The Nintendo World Championships which took place all the way back in 1990 — but it wasn’t until the medium evolved alongside streaming technologies like YouTube, Twitch, and Azubu that eSports became commonplace and eventually an industry.
Small competitive tournaments have always existed, but it was that technology coupled with the popularity and accessibility of video games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and SMITE that led eSports as they are today to really take off. If you want to play an exciting, team-based game with a high skill ceiling and low barrier to entry, all you have to do is install and play League of Legends. It’s not that easy to become a professional, but it is that easy to play, and it’s that same accessibility and understanding that allowed sports like Basketball to take off.
The trouble is, despite the fact that eSports competitors have been recognized as professional athletes by the United States, there are people who still stubbornly refuse to admit that eSports and sports are one in the same. While ESPN is finally relenting on their hardline stance held by president John Skipper, and cable network TBS has announced their plans to bring eSports to cable TV starting Summer 2016, some people still hold this belief.
I can see why people are skeptical; eSports aren’t exactly something you’d associate with physical activity, which is traditionally a typical requirement for something to be a sport. But, as many have argued, the same could be said of Poker or Chess. Both of these games are continued to be a sport, yet neither are known for their physically demanding gameplay. If those games can be sports, so can video games, or at least that’s what people say.
Personally, I’m in the camp that believes in the sound logic reasoned above. But, I’m not here to support that argument. There have been countless articles written on the subject by great outlets, and if you really want to get into it, I’d recommend reading some of them. Instead, I’m going to tell you about how eSports and sports are connected for me. You’ve probably already realized by reading the title, but eSports have been a driving force in my renewed interest of sports.
If you’re wondering how that works, well, it’s complicated. Going back to when I was younger, sports were something that I had a lot of interest in. But, as I got older and became more reclusive, my enthusiasm for sports was replaced by video games. It’s not that the two were at all similar — at the time, eSports didn’t really exist as they do now — but that my time and priorities shifted to include more time playing video games and less time playing sports, something that I think is far more common today than it was back then as people adopt technology at a younger age.