eSports: More than Meets the Eye

Contributing Writer

When you think of electronic sports (eSports), do you think of “community,” “team-work,” “skill” or “culture”? Unless you’ve been an avid eSports follower, then probably not. Since the dawn of eSports time, gaming has generated this negative stigma around home-bodied, sheltered, and secluded kids spending hours upon hours staring at a screen, zoned into their game of choice and oblivious to the outside world. Now, the electronic sports industry has come full force with providing students (and adults) of nearly all ages the opportunity to engage in community-driven events around the world. From the novice level to professional, sponsored eSports teams, fans, and players are champing at the bit to get the next best system and be a part of this riveting, exclusive, and elite world. ESports defies all “normal” sports characteristics, but adopts nearly all of the same qualities and benefits. Because of this, its popularity has skyrocketed to the point of surpassing “regular” sports’ viewership, engagement, and interest on the digital AND in-person level. Ultimately, the tables have turned, and gamers have been onto something since the beginning. 

A Momentous Occasion

At the beginning of the eSports boom, many people—often parents of the players—worried about the negative effects of spending so much time in front of a screen. The games seemed to take over the player for hours, causing an addictive-like hobby that interfered with physical and social activities. During this engagement period, the exact opposite was happening, as players were actually honing their strategy, teamwork, and concentration skills. What further reveals itself on a scientific level are the cognitive benefits that eSports helps children develop. There is evidence pointing to literary, logical, and—contrary to popular belief—social skills. Overall, the cognitive benefits have proven themselves to be worthy of gaining momentum in the educational system. 

Built to Win

The options are unlimited for eSports fans (and players), as viewers have the ability to watch livestreams of games from both their living rooms and the extravagant stadium seating that newly developed eSports arenas supply. For the past few years, organization-funded eSports events have gained participation from professional teams and viewership in the millions, including both online and live attendees. Outside of tournaments, individual gamers who have made it into the hierarchy of gaming stream their game live for all of the world to see. Viewers are broken up into avid viewers and occasional tuners-in, and in 2020, there will be about 250 million viewers watching live and online around the world. With these numbers, it would be naïve and ignorant to claim that eSports hasn’t developed a special, community-based retreat to a multitude of games.

In terms of the systems that support these fast-paced, sensory-overloaded games, the list goes on and on. The specifications per system differ based on player preference, game-specific requirements, and technological accompaniments (headphones, mice, keyboard). Some gamers desire a customized, built-to-preference computer that can be added onto or replaced as time goes on and technology gets more advanced. Meanwhile, others prefer a built-to-order model based on convenience and short-term cost effectiveness. Lucky for everyone, Connection just so happens to have all of those options! 

Why eSports?

What’s the draw, you might ask? It’s an outlet for those who found themselves going against the grain by dedicating their time to PC- and console-driven activities. While football, basketball, and other hardcore sports overshadowed the eSports potential, loyal gamers and fans built themselves a fantastic platform for sharing and broadcasting high-intensity, adrenaline-rushing levels of unconventional competition. Now, the education system is jumping aboard and supporting students’ passion and talent for this sport, as almost 200 universities are granting their recruits a total of about $15 million per year in scholarships.

The Green Machine

The funding and revenue being produced by eSports is ever increasing, as projected revenue is $1.65 billion in 2021 , while the global market for eSports is expected to exceed $180.1 billion in the same year. The education system, specifically higher education, is taking advantage of the participation within eSports by creating scholarship programs for promising gamers and building “arenas” that are stocked with the latest and greatest technology. Universities are adopting this newly developed sense of community by fostering the growth of eSports teams, and it’s behooving a number of technology companies to jump on the bandwagon and be involved in this growing industry alongside them. Whether it’s supplying a team the necessary equipment, or being a sponsor of a team, companies of all sorts want a piece of the pie. 

The colleges leading in eSports involvement have facilities that are up to 11,000 square feet, housing hundreds of gaming stations. The most notable universities include Full Sail University, University of Utah, Maryville University, Miami University, and University of California, Irvine, just to name a few. The reason for their success is the recognition they’ve had for this online turned real-life community and their devotion to accelerating the learning outcomes from the electronic sports experience. Some schools that support a varsity eSports team have begun scholarship funding to these promising gamers, and it’s luring high school students to participate and take advantage of eSports opportunities, too. The amazing thing about eSports is that it brings together all levels of gamers, provides valuable learning opportunities, and—as no one would have guessed—creates an impressive community. 

The Name of the Game

In the end, numbers don’t lie. eSports, as a full-blown industry, has made one of the quickest turnarounds humans and technology have ever seen, and this is only the beginning. Whether someone’s interest in eSports is driven by the educational opportunities that have erupted or the community involvement it has sparked, eSports—and all that it encompasses—has gone from a disparaged hobby to an educational and social movement.