ESports: A Spectator Sport for Gamers

Back in November, I had the privilege of attending the StarCraft II World Championships in Anaheim, California. The atmosphere was electric as thousands of people cheered on Korean players sOs and Life. When sOs eventually took the victory in an epic seven-game match, it was as exciting as any athletic championship I have attended. As I sat there in the arena, surrounded by thousands of people screaming as they rooted for their favorite player of a video game, I wished my son was there with me. It was a sporting event, rock concert and video game all mixed into one.

The phenomenon of eSports has been around for years in Asia where it is frequently televised for the adoring fans. In the United States, our first live televised eSports event was last year with Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Dorm college tournament. The tournament pitted university teams from around North America in a bracket-style competition for the game Heroes of the Storm. The winning team from the University of California, Berkley, won tuition for the remainder of their college careers.

HOTS BlizzCon2015
photo courtesy of Jena Burne

When the finals of Heroes of the Dorm aired on ESPN2, Twitter reviews were mixed. Many people wondered what video games were doing on their beloved sports channels while others found them sucked in by the enthusiastic commentators and fascinating gameplay. In our house, the whole family sat on the sofa, watching every moment of the action and when Arizona State University went HAM on the core*, everyone cheered.

That moment – watching a family-favorite game played at a near professional level on television – opened a new world to my son. While we had watched the preliminary rounds on Twitch, a site for streaming games, this was something readily available to most people. Here were people like my son, people who grew up playing video games and they were on a channel that was usually showing basketball or football college athletes. The best part was that they had people cheering them on to victory instead of mocking them for their interest.

SCIII BlizzCon 2015
photo courtesy of Jena Burne

For kids like my son who don’t have much of a chance to become professional athletes, eSports gives them a chance to see themselves on the screen. There are kids who excel in sports and every weekend, they can turn on the television and watch the people who are considered the absolute best in their event. ESports gives that opportunity to kids whose interests lie with video games instead of athletics. In our house, any Blizzard game tournament is a cause for gathering around the X-Box to watch events and we keep track of others such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends, as well.

ESports are readily available to watch online. Seemingly every weekend, there is something new to watch on Twitch and many games can be found on YouTube as well. If you or your kids are interested in a game, there is something that you can watch somewhere on the web. There is nothing like watching the best in the world to learn new tricks and improve your own game.

*HAM on the core: to destroy the opposing team’s core (the objective of HotS) with enthusiasm.

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Mom to a fourth grader, Jena spends most of her time involved in geeky activities with her family. An avid writer and roleplayer, she is highly involved in many fandoms including James Bond, Sherlock, Kingsman, World of Warcraft, and Inception. She also really enjoys a good plate of pancakes.