Esports are taking over the competitive throne

Mike Alexander, Copy Editor

The Olympics has been known to host, what some would call, bizarre competitions in the past. Hot air ballooning, solo synchronized swimming and race walking are only a few of the many unusual sports that have made their way to the Olympic level. But neither curling nor pentathlons can compete with the peculiar rising swell that is Esports.

Esports (electronic sports) are video games. But more specifically, they are organized tournaments of multiple players competing online from around the world for experience and large cash prizes.

Real time strategy and multiplayer online “battle arenas” are the most common genres among competitive Esports with games such as “Dota2,” “Starcraft2” and “League of Legends.”

In recent years, Esports have made an astounding leap in popularity. Last year millions of people world-wide logged on to stream an estimated 2.4 billion combined hours of Esports tournaments.

In an article from USA Today, Nick Schwartz wrote that “The League of Legends Season 3 World Championship … had 32 million viewers. That’s more than double the World Series and NCAA Final Four.”

According to New Scientist magazine, China will finish building a stadium in 2017 dedicated to Esports that can accommodate over 15,000 fans.
Not just anyone can compete in Esports however.

Like football, or any other physical sport, there is intensive training that goes into playing at a professional level. Players must be the best of the best in order to compete. Teams that are part of the League of Legends tournaments, for example, routinely study what strategies are best and put themselves through mental gymnastics to hone their skills.

Esports athletes represent not only their teams but their countries as well. Countries from Europe, Asia, and North and South America compete annually.

January 21 marked the beginning of the 2015 “ranked” season for the League of Legends tournaments, where players battle through 10 matches to earn a rank and tier.

This week, beginning on March 3, marks weeks three and seven in the competition. Over 50 teams will be placed head to head in tournament rounds.

The rewards for this competition are relatively small, such as new skins for characters and “unique rewards,” according to the League of Legends News and Updates writer Riot Mirross, but some are much larger.

Last year the Korean team “Samsung Galaxy White” won first place in the world championships and received one million dollars in prize money.

In 2011, Chen Zhihao and his team from China shared $5 million in prize money from competing in the similar Esport Dota2.