Esports – organized, competitive video gaming – has exploded from a niche hobby to a mainstream phenomenon drawing hundreds of millions of spectators in just the last few years. Top players and teams now compete in leagues, tournaments, and championships for millions in prize money as fans fill arenas nationwide to watch the action unfold.
With its meteoric rise and huge fan following, esports seems poised to stand alongside traditional major league sports as a stalwart of American entertainment. But does competitive gaming make its elite stars the new super athletes? By examining how esports mirrors established athletics, its unprecedented accessibility, and the skills it measures, we can determine if its top competitors deserve superstar status.
Esports Mimics Structures of Major Sports
From organization to spectacle, competitive video gaming has come to closely emulate the institutions and presentation of traditional major league sports in its bid for legitimacy.
Teams, Leagues and Championships
Talented gamers compete on professional teams in well-defined leagues for regional and national titles, exactly mirroring classic sports structures. League of Legends hosts a World Championship while tournaments like EVO crown the best Super Smash Bros. players – just like the World Series or Stanley Cup playoffs.
Celebrity, Fandom and Reward
Esports athletes become celebrities based on their performance and charisma, amassing huge fan followings on social media. Sold out events feature flashy lights, team colors and screaming crowds. Players and casters have become household names among younger demographics. With million dollar tournament prizes and lucrative team sponsorships, fame and fortune abounds for elite stars – the hallmark of major athletes.
As viewer numbers boom into the hundreds of millions, media outlets as major as ESPN have begun broadcasting popular competitive gaming events and commentary shows. No longer consigned to streaming, competitive gaming content has joined the media mainstream.
By evolving highly-organized competition, a colossal spectator scene, and coverage across major broadcasting channels, esports exhibits numerous hallmarks of longstanding major athletics. But what about the people competing?
Unlike traditional major league sports, anyone with gaming hardware, an internet connection and the determination to train can compete or even gain celebrity through esports – an accessibility almost entirely unprecedented in modern athletics.
Competitive Door Open to All
Participants need not be exceptionally tall, fast or strong to be top esports athletes; anyone can vie for greatness based on dedicated practice to master timing, decision making, strategy and teamwork. There are no cuts, try outs or drafts – just the willingness to compete and improve. Wherein lies the appeal to millions.
Numerous esports stars first made names for themselves in amateur online tournaments before going pro. Some began streaming casual gameplay sessions for fun until immense viewer response called them to competitive play. Massive player bases across popular games open the doors for Cinderella stories of any average player harnessing skill and work ethic to rise toward stardom.
Since physical qualities like height aren’t barriers in esports, female players thrive among top competitors more so than women breaking into major league male sports. Teams like Shanghai Dragons made history fielding an all-female Overwatch squad. Without old prejudices, diversity in esports remains high – a profoundly modern aspect of its unprecedented accessibility.
Far surpassing traditional athletics in ease of entry and variety of contenders, esports provides the everyman athletic ideal wherein anyone willing can transform into a superstar solely off discipline to perfect play. But is gaming really athletic?
Demanding Mental Dexterity and Teamwork
To excel against fierce competition, elite esports athletes must demonstrate immense mental stamina and shrewd decision-making comparable to chess champions along with the teamwork of NBA all-stars.
Lightning Quick Critical Thinking
In games like League of Legends, top players make up to 400 strategic actions per minute requiring instant analysis from limited data to maximize team position. Like expert chess players, esports stars exercise sophisticated threat assessment, artful feints, and cunning traps to outmaneuver opponents – all requiring relentless mental tasks.
Team Dynamics Requiring Precision Timing
Esports is often team-based, requiring solid communication, role specialization and coordinated plays rivaling basketball squads or football teams. In FIFA or RL, perfectly-timed passes between teammates make the difference between spectacular goals or missed opportunities. Displaying team chemistry and work ethic makes champions shine.
The mental stamina, instantaneous decision making, strategic mastery and team dynamics displayed by elite esports athletes certainly make them competitors in the truest sense – wielding sophisticated skills different from but equal to traditional sports stars. Their unprecedented celebrity and accessibility may forge the superstars of the future.
The meteoric rise of esports, with its mirrors to established athletics, grassroots promise for superstardom, and severe cognitive rigors seems indicative of competitive gaming claiming its mainstream seat alongside America’s most revered major league sports. Driven relentlessly to sharpen strategic mastery and teamwork just as LeBron James perfects his crossover, esports superstars seem destined to become icons every bit as beloved to their exponentially-growing fandom.