Video games: the new global spectator sport

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

24th January, 2013
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Deep Sea Kog’Maw from League of Legends.

Video games are becoming a spectator sport.

“Professional gaming, or e-sports, exploded in popularity in the US and Europe last year,” reports the New Scientist.

Already, top players in Asia have attained superstar status, “earning six-figure salaries and competing for rock-star glory”.

And they’re catching up in the west, as illustrated by last October’s world championship of League of Legends, “a team-based game in which players defend respective corners of a fantasy-themed battle arena”.

All of it comes complete with league tables, fan favourites, and hoarse, excitable commentators.

The Los Angeles event boasted a prize pool of $5 million, and attracted an audience of more than eight million on TV and online – “a figure that dwarfs audience numbers for broadcasts of many traditional sports fixtures”.

Daft? Not so fast, cautions the New Scientist in an editorial in the same edition.

Players are often extraordinarily skilful and tournaments can be as gripping as any major sporting eventIt is worth remembering that today’s spectator sports evolved from pastimes that people also happened to enjoy watching. Sports are just combinations of made-up rules, often absurd, designed for one purpose: to produce a compelling contest. Why can’t video games grab a slice of that action?

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One Response to “Video games: the new global spectator sport”

  1. JVK Jan 24 2013, 11:34am

    For those wondering why on earth people are offering $5 million in prize money for video games: the peak number of concurrent viewers watching that tournament online was over 1.1 million. That's a massive audience, especially considering the tournament took place over several weeks, with a Best of 3 series taking as long as 2 hours.

    I personally love League of Legends, and I'm not alone in that opinion - over 32 million people play the game, which has become the world's most played video game. The image chosen for this article by the author is one of the more grotesque images within the game, so don't judge it solely by that - it truly has enormous market appeal, and amongst both genders too. My girlfriend was intrigued enough to give it a try, and now plays several games with me every week.
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