In recent years, the Esports industry has exploded. The world of competitive video game competitions has caught the attention of millions of fans around the world. In 2017, the League of Legends World Championship attracted approximately 80 million fans. Esports has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry that is projected to experience enormous growth in the next couple of years.
For years, people have taken part in video gaming by themselves and with friends as a form of entertainment. Esports has changed all of that. The creation of live video game events and live streaming has changed the way that people view this pastime- it is now a sport. What people once did for fun is turning into a professional career, and the industry itself has opened up an enormous amount of jobs for people in other professions.
Beginning in 2011, Twitch gave Esports a way to get their content out to more people than ever before. As Twitch gained traction, it brought in millions of spectators to watch gamers compete against each other. Due to its overwhelming success, Amazon purchased Twitch in 2014 for $1 billion and has continued to help the platform gain viewers.
In July 2018, ESPN, Disney and ABC family announced a multi-year deal that would air the Overwatch League on ESPN flagship, ESPN2, Disney XD and ABC in some way. ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker said, “ We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the esports category. We’ve had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressioning, and we’re really excited to be a part of this.”
For many, Esports appears to be the future of sports and sports viewing. Ratings continue to rise every year with no signs of slowing and the possible avenues available to consume the sport are growing as well.
There is no denying that Esports is paving a way for itself in the future of sports across the world. Some are even calling it “the future of competition”. With Esports new found position, they have the opportunity to construct their sport/business in a way that may differ from that of other major sports.
Esports at the collegiate level is opening up opportunities for minority groups to engage in science, technology, engineering and math classes. A recent study done by the American Council on Education found that Esports could be a powerful way to get students in underrepresented groups to enroll in STEM programs. The ACE’s results showed that Hispanics and African-Americans were the least likely to enroll themselves in computer science related degrees- making up only 17 and 12 percent of STEM college graduates.
Another highly underrepresented group in STEM is females. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, women are outnumbered two to one in completing their STEM degree and working in its corresponding field. With collegiate level Esports drawing in a big crowd and, in turn, more interest in STEM, colleges around the country have the chance to diversify their STEM programs and offer opportunities to people of color, women and even people in groups that often go under the radar.
If Esports is going to be taken to the collegiate level, that means that they have to have an arena to play in. This opens up an opportunity for clubs and other friendly gaming opportunities that will draw in a large and diverse group of students. One unique outlook on this topic was given by Ethersville News journalist Amy Peterson. She said that this will give students with autism, ADHD and other mental disorders the chance to compete and engage with others in a way that is more comfortable for them.
Some may be hesitant that an increase in video games could be detrimental to students and their brains. Yet, there is evidence against this that actually shows the positive effects that Esports and video games can have on a young developing mind. Video games trigger parts of the brain that daily activities and interactions do not, which in small doses can cause students to improve memory, spatial orientation, information organization and fine motor skills. One study that was published in a medical journal found that surgeons who reported playing video games have better hand-eye coordination and overall better motor skills than surgeons who did not play.
Esports, when looked at with a broader lens, has the opportunity to help the STEM community and underrepresented groups. On the STEM side, the presence of Esports at universities will allow for more funding and STEM enrollment opportunities for people of color and females who may not otherwise attempt to graduate with a STEM degree. It will also give students an opportunity to engage with their peers in a new way that for some groups may be a more comfortable option.