eSports are the rising global phenomenon of electronic sports. Simply put, eSports are competitive and professional played video games.
An important distinction to be made before elaborating on the topic is that eSports are not sports, nor are they attempting to be. They are an independent realm of entertainment that merely shares a word. Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” eSports are all of that except for physical exertion, which even then could be debated due to the burning out of players and potential injuries, typically of the wrist; however, for the sake of the argument, eSports are mentally exertive and not physically. The same dictionary defines an eSport as “a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers,” and that is exactly what it is. The only potential flaw in this statement is that there is a somewhat sizable market for single player eSports, such as speed-running single player games, but these are far less popular.
The history of eSports goes back further than one might think. In the 1970s and 1980s, games such as Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man were played in front of audiences. Players would compete for the highest score in their respective games. Due to the fact that games had to be played in person, typically on an arcade machine, it was not able to reach a massive audience like today. This problem was remedied in the 1990s with the rise of the internet and games like Warcraft, Counter Strike, and Quake that allowed playing against real players online and at home.
The turn of the millennium was also a huge boost in eSports popularity with better internet and the beginning of eSports broadcasting. Games like Starcraft: Broodwar and Warcraft 3 were particularly popular, and were among the first games to spark the interest of South Korea, which is now the dominant country in almost every major eSport. Nowadays, with the help of online streaming and the fact that most people have access to a computer and the internet, anyone can play the games that they watch their favorite professionals play online.
Now, major eSports titles like League of Legends, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Defense of the Ancients have tens of massive followings both in palyer-base and in eSports. League of Legends for example has over 100 million monthly players and the finals of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship had 43 million viewers, which is more than the 40 million that watched game seven of the World Series. That is just one example of the massive numbers involved in eSports. For more information on eSports, check out the Understanding eSports section of the website.