Is Gaming Becoming a Sport in the United States?

The amount of video game use we see in society today is arguably inescapable. Mobile games such as; Candy Crush, Game of War, or Clash of Clans, record daily revenues in the millions, and someone is bound to recognize one if not all of these game names. This exposure to gaming in everyday light seems to be bringing in a new and unseen age in gaming, where gaming could be seen as a sport.

Ever since the first two people booted up “Pong” on the Atari 2600, gaming has been competitive. When you think about it, playing a game of soccer and playing a video game aren’t all that different. The object is always to win the game but the level of competition and players in the game can vary. Growing up I played Call of Duty on a fairly competitive level but I had no idea how big the competitive gaming industry would grow to be. The growth in this industry can be traced to a number of factors. The financial growth in the gaming industry has been incredible. The recent stance that “nerd culture” has taken in the popular media through means such as The Big Bang Theory. The push by people who genuinely enjoy gaming culture and want to see it get a spot in the limelight has brought gaming into everyday life for the general public.

So what is causing video games to turn into a source of entertainment that people would watch from home like they would football or soccer? The answers might surprise you. In July of 2014 “Defense of the Ancients” or DOTA was played by teams around the world for a community raised prize pool totaling $10,923,980 U.S. dollars. Teams of five would play against one another and eliminate the competition as they moved towards the grand finals and the ultimate prize of first place. While this was the fourth tournament of this type hosted by the games creators, it was the first time it was televised by ESPN 3. ESPN was pleased so much by the results of the coverage they agreed to follow up the next year. It is crazy to think that within the next few years we might see coverage of video games on Sports Center. Unlike ESPN which is only showing you content on competitive gaming during big tournaments, streaming is available all the time. Twitch TV being the main website that comes to mind. Streaming sites allow content creators to show what is happening live on their computers to audiences who can join in the conversation with a chat group function as they watch their favorite steamers/players play live. The potential for growth through an avenue like this is enormous. Just think, you could watch a TV show and chat with fellow fans of the show from all around the world with great ease, all while being able to communicate with content creators.

We know what is bringing gaming into the sports arena, but what is keeping it out? Well it is just not quite time for electronic sports (E-Sports) to become a household name, at least not in the United States. South Korea may be an example of what is to come in terms of E-Sports in the United States. Say the name “Star Craft” and nine times out of ten, a Korean will know what you are referring to. The game Star Craft is practically a national past time of South Korea. The game is featured on cable television and is even featured on a few apps offered by Microsoft’s Xbox, which is a direct competitor to the PC gaming market that Star Craft belongs to. Players in Korea are treated like celebrities, signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, and appearing on talk shows from time to time. Now if I were to tell this to the average American, more than likely the response would be along the lines of “Are you serious?” It’s that big of a deal over there?” Yes, E-Sports in Korea and to a lesser degree, China and Japan are already booming industries. So why hasn’t gaming already become a large industry in the United States where most of these games are made? Americans tend to like different games than the Asian players do. Americans tend to like fast paced shooters, such as Call of Duty or Counter Strike, while Asian players tend to favor strategic games such as Star Craft or DOTA. The problem with shooters is that less strategy is involved. Think of the two genres as an approach to an American football game. While both genres have a well-defined goal like in football the strategic games feature ways to counter movements of other players or their choice of how to move toward their goal via tech choices or character choices. In football, if the defense sends a blitz, you try to counter that blitz by getting the ball to a receiver who is open, or run the ball in the opposite direction of the blitz. There is no correct way to approach the defense’s strategy, and the offense can still make choices on how to approach the situation. The same cannot be said about shooters, there simply isn’t enough depth in gameplay to give watchers new ideas about how they can apply techniques used by professionals into their own gameplay.

Professional gaming is on its way to becoming a real sport in the United States. With air times on ESPN and through the popularization of gaming in everyday life within five or ten years we might see a good chunk of people walking around with E-sport’s team jerseys. Due to the trends of gaming in the U.S. it will likely take radical changes in gameplay to keep viewers watching and to get more of the public interested, but it is feasible. It will take the work of dedicated fans of the sport to push gaming further into the public eye but from what we have seen in the past few years it’s clear that gaming will be considered a sport in the near future.

A New Season in Gaming

A recent study in the U.S. revealed that of the 31.4 million gaming fans, only 30% are female. As a full-time streamer on Twitch, Autumn Rhodes has made a name for herself in the male dominated gaming world. This Toronto based streamer, who started playing games with her dad at a young age, talks about her experiences in an industry not always open to the fairer sex.

1. How did you get into eSports?

I started playing video games at a very young age because of my father and my brother, and ever since then I’ve never been able to stop. When I was introduced to the eSports world I was astonished about how it all worked. Being a very competitive person, I decided it was time to take my love for gaming to the next level, and when I discovered Twitch.tv and all the amazing possibilities I had in front of me.

2. What exactly do you do in the eSports arena?

I am a full time streamer on Twitch. I play games such as CS:GO, CoD, LoL, and so many more. I dedicate hours and hours a day to these games, always practicing, and always trying to be the best I can be. I’ve played competitively in many games and I always have such a great time doing so.

3. What do you think of women in eSports, specifically in your region?

I think the women involved in eSports around my region, which is Toronto, give a good name for all of us. They know how difficult it can be in this industry as a woman, and they work hard to maintain their image as not only a serious competitive player but as a woman who can play just as well as any man. Because Toronto has such a high population there is so much competition in the eSports world.

4. What has been some of your experiences of being in a field that has been dominated by males?

Some of my experiences in this field haven’t always been great, but other times they’ve been fantastic. I remember being in the Cineplex World Gaming CoD tournament last year, and as I walked into the theater the men were just shocked as to why I was even there. The male I faced was so terrified because he never had to play against a girl before and he didn’t know what to expect; it made him so nervous. Meanwhile, some other men at the tournament figured because I am a woman that I would easily be beaten because there’s no way I could be good at any games. Being in an industry where we’re told we “can’t possibly play video games because we’re women” is really disappointing in today’s society. There are just SO many men who hate on women who are involved in the gaming industry, and I don’t know if this is because society has taught people that ONLY boys can play video games or if some of them are just too ignorant to realize that our sex has absolutely nothing to do with our capability of being great at something.

5. What is your favorite thing about being part of the eSports community?

My favorite thing about being a part of the eSports community is how well we all understand each other. It’s such a great feeling going to competitions and events and having so much in common with everyone. We all can relate in one way or another.

6. What is the most difficult part of being in eSports?

The most difficult part about being in eSports as a woman is how so many men look at us. They rarely take us seriously and it’s quite annoying because we’ve worked just as hard as them or harder to get where we are in the gaming industry.

7. Why do you think it’s so important that women be represented in eSports?

I think it’s very important that more women are represented in eSports because we need to break the stereotype that it’s only a man’s world. SO many women avoid the gaming industry because of the fact that so many get harassed and bullied for showing an interest in gaming. It’s nice to see that people are finally starting to shed light on this topic and speak out about it.

8. What are your hopes for women in eSports?

My hope for women in eSports is that one day men won’t judge us for being a part of the gaming community and that they will realize we can play games just as well as them and even better. I can tell over the past couple of years more and more people are opening up to females in the gaming world, which is such a relief because it isn’t fair to the women such as myself who put so much time and dedication into competitive gaming to just be shut down because society says we can’t be good at games.

Online Gaming

Online gaming is all about community, so in addition to the in-game chat and Messenger-based invitation ability of our new multiplayer games, we’ve been researching new social and community features for both the games and our site in general. That’s part of what makes online gaming what it is.

Gaming is so cool that it’s practically mandatory, and being good at games can be a great social boon. Gaming does Google’s recent in-game advertising patent present a dream come true for marketers, a nightmare for gamers, or something in between. Gaming communities are powerful, profitable, and yet very fragile. Gaming, the firm notes is one of the fastest growing of all entertainment sectors, outstripping feature films in terms of revenue generation. Gaming is inherently social and playing games has been closely linked with building relationships and social hierarchies throughout history.

Games can be immersive for a lot of different reasons. Online games refer to video games that are played over some form of computer network, most commonly the Internet. Online games can range from simple text based games to games incorporating complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players simultaneously. Many online games have associated online communities, making online games a form of social activity beyond single player games.

Clearly, online gaming has made its mark as a feature of the Internet that is here to stay. Originally, however, the online gaming audience consisted solely of die-hard players who were willing to put up with difficult installation and expensive fees. Without looking into the positive implications of online gaming, this rising percentage could be alarming and fearful, for it presents a picture that children will be spending more time in front of a computer, limiting the amount of face-to-face interaction that these children experience.