05. eSports

6 Factors Affecting Growth and Popularity of eSports

September 2, 2021

eSports players have become part of a gigantic billion-dollar industry. Nearly a half-century has passed since Atari released its ping pong-inspired arcade game Pong in 1972. Today the gaming industry continues to expand. The Pew Research Center reported that 90% of American teens play games on a computer, console, or cellphone. In recent years, eSports has exploded in popularity. It combines elements of traditional video games and spectator sports. In fact, such multiplayer online gaming shares similarities to sports betting, gaming, and streaming. Gamification is another example, which includes using motivational techniques to provide engaging training and learning experiences, leading to improved outcomes and increased knowledge retention. The growing popularity of professional eSports as a global phenomenon is symbolic of video games becoming more mainstream in everyday life. Here we'll cover the factors behind the exploding success of gaming.

What Makes eSports Incredibly Popular?

The history of eSports dates back to 1972 at a Stanford University event that featured the vintage Spacewar! game. Fast forward to the 2000s. Video games and online gaming continue to be popular among adults and kids. Internet cafes started popping up everywhere, allowing video game players to play multiplayer games on high powered PCs.

Today, eSports is no longer just a hobby to pass the time on the couch as they are considered competitive and lucrative professions. Here is a break-down of 6 factors that have helped eSports skyrocket to astronomical growth and popularity.

1. Similarity to Traditional Sports

eSports is built on competition like other sporting events, including football and basketball. It’s pretty common for people to become fans of a particular eSport or eSport player. Watching competitive gaming events has become a global phenomenon.

eSports spectators can enjoy high-level gaming through online platforms like YouTube and Twitch. The competitions often offer easy accessibility and free viewing. Superfans can even enjoy 24/7 video streaming.

Like traditional sports, eSports provides interesting stories for big competitions. In addition, like other sports, trades and rivalries are common eSports elements. These events can also include narratives about underdogs who make a run to take the title. This phenomenon includes new players who challenge long-term favorites.  

Due to the similarities with traditional sports, eSports’ recent popularity isn’t surprising.

2. High-Quality Games

Video game quality has significantly risen in past decades. Video game technology has evolved tremendously since the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari 2600, and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles.  Video game graphics, in particular, have become much more realistic due in part to innovations like 3D and virtual reality (VR).

This situation makes eSports games easier to watch and play. There’s less chance of players developing eye strain or severe headaches from pixelated graphics. Elements like augmented reality (AR) can help convert the physical world, so players feel like they’re inside the game. Pokemon GO is one of many examples.  

3. High Accessibility and Inclusiveness

Another reason for eSports’ popularity is how accessible video games have become. People can become gamers with a computer, console or mobile device, and some games. People can play video games any time of the day. This factor differs from many other sports where a field, gym, or rink closes at night.

eSports also doesn’t require a lot of equipment or space to play. In fact, if people have a smartphone, they can easily download a mobile game onto their handset. Another accessibility feature of gaming is they don’t typically need a lot of athletic ability to achieve success.

This situation differs from traditional sports that require players to have certain physical features like size, strength, and speed. In contrast, a gamer’s physique doesn’t indicate their gaming skills. The person simply has to pick up a console controller or computer mouse and play the game. Fans can also watch eSports easily through video-sharing platforms. They just need a steady internet connection to watch live gaming events.

4. Video Games Can Be Addicting

Video games’ addicting quality is one of the main reasons people keep playing them. It’s essential to maintain a healthy balance that combines gaming and non-gaming recreational activities. Gaming, however, can drive players to reach new levels, unlock new weapons, and beat the competition.  

The highly competitive nature of video games helps to explain eSports’ popularity. Some people keep playing every day to become elite players.

Another aspect that explains the popularity of competitive gaming is the support gamers receive from their fans. It’s worth noting that too much gaming may lead to various mental health problems such as video game addiction.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines internet gaming disorder (IGD) as a disorder that might cause several of these effects over 12 months:

● Withdrawal

● Loss or educational or career opportunities

● Loss of control

● Gaming to escape

● Gaming preoccupation

● Less Interest in other activities

● Downplaying use

Researchers continue to study IGD and possible treatments. Options could include educational programs, stricter game packaging labels, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and support groups.  

5. Legitimate Career Opportunities

Gaming not only can be fun and relaxing but also a way to make money. If people want to go pro, it’s relatively easier in eSports versus traditional sports.  

Here’s why. People don’t need the physical characteristics often required in sports like physical strength, speed, and agility. This factor doesn’t mean that becoming a pro gamer is easy. Candidates still need to train hard and do their homework.

That said, one reason eSports has surged in popularity is that the option to become a professional gamer is more practical than becoming an NFL, NBA, or MLB athlete, for example. Many people often consider competitive gaming to be a legitimate career path. Kids, teens, and adults throughout the world dream of becoming professional eSports gamers.

6. Gaming Is a Social Activity

Research shows that gaming might provide various cognitive benefits, including:

Improved Memory – A 2020 Spanish study showed that playing Super Mario 64 triggered brain regions connected to memory.

Better Attention – A 2018 Chinese study showed that playing League of Legends for one hour seemed to improve the gamers’ attention.

Problem-Solving Skills – Video games like Minecraft may improve people’s ability to find solutions to real-world problems. More research is needed, though.

Better Mood – The 2020 Spanish study combined video games with a US-approved treatment known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for mood disorders.

The social benefits of gaming are an oft-forgotten aspect, which adds to their popularity. eSports allow gamers to play against friends, relatives, and strangers. Gaming becomes a collaborative experience in which they can learn, share, and improve.

Online gaming trended in the 2000s and allowed people throughout the world to play games like Tetris Battle, Farm World, and Restaurant City. This era helped to make gaming a more social experience compared to one-player console games, for example.  

Another key social aspect of eSports games is that many are team-based. This feature allows gamers to compete with teammates against other teams. In this scenario, eSports becomes a more social experience since players can’t win without their team. They’ll also need skills like communication and coordination. People must literally be team players to achieve success on eSports teams. That’s not all. In many cases, they’ll need to collaborate with others to achieve success in the social sport.

The Bottom Line

eSports has evolved from its humble beginning in the 1970s into a billion-dollar industry. Competitive gaming has earned a huge fan base throughout the world. In-person and online events like tournaments have also attracted big brands. It’s highly likely eSports will continue to grow substantially in the next few years. Games and sports seem to be the perfect combination.

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