I’d like to tell you I’m sitting in the beautiful sunshine and listening to the football on a chilled out Good Friday but that’s not quite true. It is absolutely glorious outside, and the sun is blazing in the window. However, I can’t actually see my screen to write if I let the sun in, forcing me to pull the curtains together.
The bit about the football is true though, and that’s the point that’s actually important. As I write this Brighton are 1-0 down to Burnley (by the time I finished writing they’d lost), and I’ve been glued to my radio pretty much since the game started. I imagine many of you are the same with your radio or TV when football is on. Of course your sport might be rugby or F1 but the general point still stands; your sporting heroes likely steal much of your attention when they’re doing their thing.[drop]This whole situation has sparked a thought about the future and e-sports. If you’re not familiar with e-sports they’re essentially competitive gaming; televised and played for money in much the same way traditional sports are (although many are only shown online). Whilst they’re not all that popular in the West at the moment, they have a pretty significant following in East Asia (particularly in South Korea), with Starcraft and Starcraft II probably being the most popular games.
The question is will they ever get the same kind of global adoration that traditional sports do? In thirty or forty years will people sit in the pub on a Saturday watching whatever game is in favour?
Obviously the first step on that path is for gaming to become more generally respected, but let’s put that aside for the moment. Instead let’s assume that gaming does become generally respected by the public and the media; if that were to happen could e-sports ever really take off?
There are obviously issues that would effect the popularity, in particular I can’t help but feel the lack of physical exertion could turn people off. The games themselves can certainly be fast paced, Starcraft is hardly slow and Counter-Strike is very popular in the e-sport scene as well, so it’s hardly going to be chess, but that lack of any real physicality may well remove some of the appeal for the general public.
However, a far bigger issue for me is the speed at which games change and evolve. Yes, Starcraft is still exceptionally popular even after the release of Starcraft II, but gaming is always on the move. New games will be released and new leagues may well form under the e-sport umbrella.
It’s certainly possible that these games will co-exist, much like football and rugby manage to run side-by-side (often sharing the same facilities). However it’s the rapid growth and decline of games that makes me wonder how it would work within e-sports.
Would we see some games just getting trialled for a season? Would some games be the equivalent of the bush leagues before players move up to the big money titles? It’s an aspect of the whole situation that fascinates and puzzles me in equal measure.
Those potential issues aside, I’d certainly like to see some mainstream growth of e-sports. It’d be wonderful to see something like GOMTV’s Global Starcraft II League getting real global acclaim, rather than being something that even some gamers see as being geeky and would re-enforce gaming’s push into the mainstream. Whether or not that will ever happen is a complete mystery, but the prospect certainly excites me.