E-Sports are sports too
League of Legends continues to gain mass popularity and economic support, making it equivalent to traditional sports. | creativecommons.flickr.com
League of Legends is an electronic video game taking the world by storm. By 2012, League of Legends was the most played PC game in North America and Europe. As of January 2014, over 67 million people play League of Legends per month, and in 2015, that number continues to skyrocket. League of Legends players constitute nearly 20 percent of all Multiplayer Online Battle Arena players. Yet, despite the vast popularity and skill involved with the gameplay, these gamers receive little respect in mainstream America.
Though the thought of gaming as a sport or professional video game athletes seems odd to the average person, within the last few years, an increasing number of people began recognizing their reality.
In 2013, the League of Legends World Championship Finals were held in the Staples Center. This means for three weeks, the place where professional NBA teams such as the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers play, held all things League-related — and this was in 2013. Since then, the game has gained even more popularity.
Now, the 2015 world championships will take place throughout Europe. The LoL Worlds this year is a multi-City and multi-country event, with locations in Paris at Le Dock Pullman, London Wembley Arena, Brussels and the final clash in Berlin, at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. To top it off, the prize pool contains over $2 million, the team placing first receiving an award of $1 million. This indicates that, in the minds of many, League of Legends players qualify as real athletes playing a real sport.
Even though ESPN President John Skipper originally mocked it as a “fake sport,” more people watched the 2013 League of Legends World Championship than the BCS Championship or Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And again, this year there will be at least double that amount. Despite Skipper’s jabs, ESPN 3 will now stream the League of Legends world championships.
Some professional esports athletes spend over 14 hours per day practicing, and must reach peak condition to stay competitive. This includes developing muscle and reflex memory and possessing the capacity for complex problem-solving and strategy development.
Non-professional, but skilled League of Legends teams can stream live gaming on Twitch as well. In August 2014, Amazon paid nearly $1 billion for Twitch, a website enabling viewers to watch professionals play video games in these sorts of competitions.
Major streamers of LoL earn six figure salaries. In the same way athletes receive sponsorships, twitch streamers can also receive sponsorships and spend a significant amount of time promoting products. Every kind of electronics-related company sponsors streamers, earning streamers more money to have their logo on the screen while users play.
Even colleges like Robert Morris University in Illinois have begun considering League of Legends a varsity sport, and some clubs from schools like USC and Harvard face off against each other for prize money and fame.
Deserving of Respect
Esports such as League of Legends hold mass viewerships and receive great economic investment like traditional sports, and their popularity only continues to grow. Although it is not commonly accepted by most Americans yet, esports should receive the kind of respect the data indicates they deserve.