Video games came into our lives back in 1972 with the introduction of the Atari. We didn’t think then that they would change so much and become such a part of our culture, but now, almost 100 consoles later, there are several professional video game players who compete for leagues all over the world, both paid and unpaid.
Not only have the consoles changed, but the types of games (role-playing games, first-person shooters, racing, etc.) have also created their own niche worlds. The prevalence of online-only gaming has also increased—we used to have story modes or local multiplayer options, but now, almost everything is online lobbies playing against players from all over the world requiring a monthly subscription (ex. Xbox Live, Playstation Live, etc). The ability to play against players from different walks of life has drastically upped the ante and forced players to challenge their skills.
This past Sunday, Fortnite, one of the most popular games since its development in 2017, held its first-ever World Cup where 100 competitors played six rounds of a Battle Royal FPS (first person shooter). In this competition, points and kills ended up leading to real prize money. The minimum age for participation is 13, and the oldest player was in their 30s.
Kyle Giersdorf (@bugha), is the 16-year-old winner and recipient of $3 million (1). This teen now gets to go back to high school knowing he won a prize larger than 2019 PGA winner, Brooks Koepka – $1,980,000 (2), 2019 Masters winner Tiger Woods – $2,070,000 (3), and even 2019 Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic, at 2.5 million pounds, equivalent to $2,983,748 (4).
With prize money like this, it is time we recognize that ESports is here, and it’s here to stay. These players practice this sport just like any other athlete. Giersdorf himself plays “six to eight hours a day, at least five days a week” (1) with his competitors putting in equivalent or sometimes more hours if there is an absence of school.
As virtual reality games and arcades become the norm, we need to realize that the introduction of technology is only going to become more prevalent in our lives. In some situations where climate change, urbanization, disabilities or other extenuating factors that remove the ability to play physical sports, video games provide an outlet that was once not there.
That is not to take away from the opportunities it provides other types of players as well—video games are rather inclusive to all and are a great way to increase skills in ways physical sports cannot. Simulations are already being used in real world training situations, so why not just accept the whole gamut of electronic worlds and see what opportunities arise?
We used to shame people for spending all their time playing video games, but with prize money greater than other sports opportunities and with positive real life outcomes, maybe it’s time we give the sport and its players the credit they deserve. These players are about to make a name for themselves and make us all realize their true potential. We should use this spark of interest to keep watching.