Video Gaming was a popular trend back in the 80s, using cassettes and floppy disks. Technology has advanced, changing the world as you know it, giving many young gamers, the possibility to play on their PC, Xbox or PlayStation. The competition of these online games has sparked interest across the world, growing into what is now known as Esports.
Recent Esports Evolution
Esports teams and their talented players have made it their job to compete professionally at prestigious gaming tournaments to win cash prizes in thousands and over recent years has grown in the millions. Just like in the Football World Cup or the Olympic Games, athletes take their training very seriously to be the best, holding personal records and ranking better across leaderboards worldwide.
The number of esports tournaments held all over the world have increased, promoting the potential and growth of electronic gaming. This can be seen in the total amount of viewership, following these events as well as the prize pools and fan contributions. In 2016, the revenue generated reached $636 million, thanks to the 320 million people who followed the matches, where over a whopping $120 million was won. In 2017, the highest prize pool offered was a jaw-dropping $25 million at Dota 2 competition, The International 7. According to BBC.com, esports will double their audience to nearly 600 million people to achieve an overwhelming $1.75 billion in revenues by 2020.
The Relationship between Esports & Gambling
Esports is an electronic sport where cyber athletes train in their favorite video games. These players practice using their hand-and-eye coordination, mental stamina and communication skills, without the physical aspect of having to run around.
Esports Gambling is more or less similar to betting on traditional sports like Baseball, Football or Tennis, where you can wager on the results of the competitions.
Now that Esports and Gambling definitions are clear, all you need to do is understand how these two things are connected. The Faculty of Communication Sciences at the University of Tampere in Finland has carried out some research, investigating the relationship between esports, the audience and the human behaviour in gambling.
- The first result showed that the more time gamers played video games, they were less likely to gamble.
- The second result has shown that gambling problems are much higher among esports spectators than the general population. In this case, as the esports engagement increases so does their betting activity.
- Another issue that was raised going through the research was the growth of online gaming practices in Lootboxes, gaming items, skins and free-to-play games as well as those found on social networks.
Through this investigation, researchers found those game developers are reluctant to address the concern and are subject to legal threats. Due to this, esports online games are developed as a way to increase profits off players without considering the harmful gambling habits of vulnerable people like adolescents.
Esports as a Recognized Sport in the coming Olympics
Last October 2017 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Olympic Committee decided that esports are sports, indeed. The International Olympic Committee or IOC had also concluded that the esports players go through intense training sessions for tournaments as much as professional athletes. Video games at such a big event will attract the younger generations around the world, which will help increase engagement in the Olympic Games.
Intel has partnered up with IOC to organize an esports tournament, IEM PyeongChang. This gaming event will feature StarCraft II, which is scheduled to take place just before the 2018 Winter Olympics start. All SC 2 players will have to go through the qualifiers in November 2018 for the main esports match held in December, in Beijing.
The game developers of Starcraft II, Blizzard’s CEO Mike Morhaime said in an official statement,"This is a great opportunity for esports to be associated with the biggest international competitive stage, and we’re proud that some of the most skilled StarCraft 2 players on the planet will be helping to lead the way."
Esports games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty or Overwatch will not be featured in the Olympics because of the violence featured in these games. The IOC President, Thomas Bach said, "We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people… this doesn't match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line."
Bach continues to explain that if there are people competing in FIFA Esports, they would consider it for future events. "So if ever somebody is competing at playing football virtually or playing other sports virtually, this is of high interest, we hope that, then, these players are really delivering sports performance. If [fans] at the end would even play the sports in the real world, we would even be more than happy."
Some professional athletes may disagree for the simple reason that the Olympics is a celebration of physical strength and skill, pushing their limits to be faster, reaching higher. However, competition is not all about the physical strength because synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are also a part of the Olympic games, where grace, musicality, and movement is a vital part of this kind of sport.
In the next 2022 Games in China, Esports players will achieve medals, just like an Olympic swimmer who sets a world record in the 100m backstroke, winning a gold medal. If you are good at playing sports video games like FIFA Esports, the basketball video game - NBA 2K, Rocket League or Starcraft II, only you have the power to be a better gamer and achieve medals at the World Games.
What Legislators and Politicians are saying about Esports
Understanding the esports potential may seem a little difficult for politicians. The stereotype of playing video games may seem like a waste of time to most but the mentality is slowly changing. Politicians like the American President Donald Trump, Swedish MP Rickard Nordin, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all been exposed in some way to the virtual world.
Rickard Nordin, a Swedish Member of Parliament believes in the advantages and potential of Esports to society for he is quite up-to-date with the esports news, teams, and tournaments. “We actually have some of the biggest tournaments and best teams in Sweden already. I'm thinking of Dreamhack and teams like Fnatic and Ninjas in Pyjamas and also players like Orange and Ostkaka. It would be great to get even more and better teams and tournaments, but that's however not my main goal. I'm more interested in the political aspects. Today gamers from a number of countries can't get visas to tournaments or work permits. Schools that focus on esports cannot open in the same way as other schools which focuses on other sports and there are some strange tax regulations as well. I just want to level the playing field so that esports is treated the same way as other sports.”
Rickard Nordin has a few goals to help fix problems and help promote esports in a positive way. “I also want to promote all the good things about esports. Team spirit, learning the English language, quick decision making, thinking strategically and logically and so on. There are so many prejudices – about people sitting at their computers instead of playing outside and meeting their friends – to fight that I guess I will have plenty of work to do before it's fully accepted in society.”
Swede Parliamentarian Rickard Nordin shares his knowledge of esports by streaming online an esports game like Hearthstone and will vote to reregulate the Swedish gambling market. “Well, that's one of my goals with streaming – showing my fellow colleagues what the potential is. There are so many great things that come from esports and the possibilities to do good things are endless. I've gotten great support and many curious questions from the colleagues in my party, but some rather harsh comments from some other politicians. You can't win them all, but I aim to win enough.”
Rickard Nordin will be a speaker at the i-Gaming Forum in Sweden which will be held in April to share his views: “Where does eSports fit in? Is it culture? Is it sports? It is important that this is defined, that eSports is properly recognized. There is more than a symbolic value for this”.
Rickard Nordin concludes that “It’s vital that eSports players get this recognition. They are doing something, that is positive for society, not something that they should be ashamed of in any way”.
Times are indeed changing and quite interesting how different countries show their interest in esports and the future. An example of this is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) showing the support of esports as part of the government program between 2017 until 2021.
According to CDU, gaming is an ‘important cultural asset to positively support the development of esports and take care of suitable conditions.” This endorsement in video games has come as a surprise to many as CDU Minister of Interior, Thomas de Maizière has blamed violent games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for the Munich Shooting that happened back in 2016.
Four months have passed since the elections and the main parties CDU and the Social Democrats have agreed on the recognition of esports as a sport. This shows that there is a place for esports supported by the government, giving hope for the future of gaming.
America has recently taken centre stage in the current news about mass shootings in schools and gun control. President Donald Trump said in a meeting with state governors “I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would have done that too."
Trump has also expressed his concern of the harm that violent video games and movies have on youngsters: “I’m hearing more and more people seeing the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts… The fact is that you are having movies come out, that are so violent, the killing and everything else, and we may have to think about that."
On the other hand, President Donald Trump made a mistake in an announcement at the White House, saying that "In November, we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets.”
In such a serious moment, Trump thought that the United States had F-52 fighter jets that were successfully delivered to Norway. This comment revealed that even the President may be a Call of Duty fan or perhaps his son plays the video game. Who would have thought?