The Sport of the Future

Nicholas Fantasia '17, Contributor

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Picture a stadium full of screaming fans. Cheers echo across the rows of the packed arena as the game progresses. Adrenaline enraptures the aura of the scene and the people, who are sweltering from the intensity and excitement of the competition. This might sound like your typical Patriots game at Gillette Stadium or Celtics game at the TD Garden. To your surprise however, it is a professional video game tournament, and these “athletes” are not colossal, fit super humans, but are headset-wearing, passionate gamers.

Next month, I will have the opportunity to attend one of these tournaments for the first time. Hosted at the Wang Theatre, the Boston Major will boast sixteen of the top DOTA 2 teams from around the world to compete for a staggering $3,000,000 prize pool. Thousands will gather from all parts of the globe to spectate this phenomena and cheer for their favorite players and teams. This event reflects one of the major changes that is happening to our culture: a revolution in video games, and the rise of eSports. With games spanning from League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counterstrike: GO, to Call of Duty, professional and competitive eSports have grown at rapid paces. According to the Huffington Post, more than 100 million people view video game play each month on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, with the number expected to rise to 145 million by 2017. In October 2013, 32 million people watched the championship of Riot Game’s League of Legends. That is more than the number of people who watched the 2014 World Series and NBA Finals combined. It is not just kids or your stereotypical image of gamers who watch these events. More than half of American eSports fans are employed full time, and 28% of viewers are over age 35, according to ESPN.

In reality, professional eSports have become a massive industry expected to gross $1 billion by 2019, according to CNN, rivaling some of the largest institutions in traditional sports. Prize money has increased seventy times thanks in part to millions of dollars in sponsorships from large corporations like Coca-Cola, Ford, and Red Bull. A new generation of celebrities has emerged from this culture, many of whom earn millions of dollars annually from tournament winnings and sponsorships. Colleges like Robert Morris University in Chicago have even begun offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for gamers, the first of their kind in the United States, and college gaming leagues and divisions are springing up across the nation.

With the rise of eSports in pop culture and the massive success the industry has enjoyed in the past few years, one could easily draw a parallel between this trend and revolutions such as rock and roll in the 1960s. Will there ever be a time when local high school students have a chance to compete against one another? Though you may chuckle at such a claim and ponder in disbelief questioning how video games have grown so big, they are truly becoming one of the major cultural trends in the 21st century. A decade from now, maybe even sooner, we will live in a world where the stereotype of the video gamer has perished and a time when eSports have become equally as popular as traditional sports like football or soccer.


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The Sport of the Future