Sports

Esports rising in popularity as a new way to watch games

Credit: Chris Yunker Credit: Chris Yunker

A packed stadium shakes with noise and anticipation. Thousands sit at the edge of their seats, waiting anxiously for the competition to start. But what competition are they here to see? Could it be a hockey game, or perhaps football? It might seem that way at first glance, but instead this filled stadium is ready to watch people play video games. This phenomenon has increased in popularity and frequency over the past decade, and it’s called esports. Competitions are broadcast live, with a production team of commentators and often-large prize pools on top of the salaries that players earn, and millions of people tune in from their computers around the world to watch the competitions for themselves.

There are many different video games that people play and watch in the world of esports, most notably League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The most popular and rapidly growing community is that of League of Legends. This game is a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA for short, where players are organized into two teams of five, and then each player picks a character to control. The players then use their 5 characters to team up and work to defeat the other five-player team on a battle arena called Summoner’s Rift.

A team wins by destroying the structures in the base of the other team, but in order to do this, the players must destroy the players on the other team first. For League of Legends, games are played in organized leagues around the world. North America and Europe each have their own separate League Championship Series, or LCS for short, in which eight teams compete weekly in a season style format, with the standings at the end of the season determining who makes it to playoffs and eventually the world championship. Korea, China, and Southeast Asia also each have their own version of these organized leagues that produce a set of winners to send to the world championship at the end of the year.

The 2015 League of Legends World Championship was played as a 16 team round-robin group stage followed by an eight team single elimination bracket, and the finals were held in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany with a prize pool of 2.3 million dollars. Over 36 million people, with a peak concurrent viewership of 14 million viewers, watched the final round of the world championship. With these viewership numbers, League of Legends has been making waves in the financial world as well as in the video game world, and big name sponsors have noticed.

Most recently, Geico Insurance made a sponsorship deal with North American esports organization Team Solomid, just to give an idea of the scope these sponsorships. Popular TV personality Rick Fox also just purchased a team to compete in the North American LCS. Big names are entering the esports industry, and money is pouring in faster than ever. But what does this mean for the growth of the industry? It means esports will continue to grow in popularity, and more regulations must be put in place in order to protect the lives of players and people involved in organizations in this new industry.

The League of Legends community has grown exponentially since the outset of the game in 2009, and it is evident in both the production quality of League of Legends broadcasts as well as the sheer number of players of the game. People that don’t play the game are becoming aware of the fact that League of Legends, and video games in general, are becoming a part of the realm of spectator sports and their value as a source of revenue and as a catalyst of community cannot be understated.

If you’re interested in checking out the action for yourself, the League Champion Series began the week of January 16th, and games are played on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday every week, live broadcast on YouTube, Twitch.tv, and Azubu. The future of spectator sports has arrived. The community is relentless and the competition is intense, and esports will be around for years to come with a passionate community behind it.