Esports Evolution: From Arcade Classics to Global Phenomenon

There’s no denying that esports has had a huge impact on the gaming world over the past decade. It has become a global phenomenon and attracts audiences that have often surpassed those of traditional sports. When we refer to esports, we’re talking about competitive video gaming that includes organized multiplayer video game competitions between professional players individually or as a team. Esports has become so big that many colleges and universities have established scholarships to attract the world’s best gamers. Esports owes its success to its ability to attract and engage a diverse audience, huge sponsorship deals, and people’s love for video games. In this article, we look at how esports got to where it is today.

A Brief History of Esports

While esports is relatively new, competitive gaming had existed since the 1960s, when games like “Spacewar!” laid the foundation for multiplayer gaming. The first competitive gaming tournament which featured this game occurred at Stanford University in 1971. Arcade games like “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat” defined competitive gaming in the 1990s, with large crowds attending the regular tournaments where these games were front and centre.

In the 1990s, “Doom” and “Quake” introduced the first-person shooter genre to the world as PCs and online multiplayer games started to make their mark on the gaming world. At the same time, “StarCraft” became the go-to choice for competitive gamers who enjoyed the real-time strategy genre.  As one can imagine, esports has come a long way since the early days. At the turn of the century, the term esports was officially coined, and games like “Counter-Strike” and “StarCraft: Brood War” helped solidify the competitive gaming scene, especially in South Korea, where it began to get mainstream recognition. Today, esports has become known around the world and has major teams and tournament organizers, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch their favourite professional gamers.

Online Poker: An Esport?

Gamer sat at a computer

The debate has swirled around the question of whether or not poker is an export, and the answer you’ll get if you pose this question will change from one person to the next. There’s no question that poker has a lot of the same elements as other games that fall under the esports umbrella, including its competitive nature and strategic depth. Also, we can’t overlook the fact that millions around the world play this game, and high-profile tournaments are held multiple times throughout the year. For a player to be successful at poker, they have to have a deep understanding of the games, psychological acumen, and the ability to outmanoeuvre opponents strategically — the same skills required in traditional esports.

When participating in an online tournament, poker players must be prepared to pick up on tells from their opponents, such as betting speed, and look for things they can exploit during the game that will lead to their success. Poker’s competitive structure is similar to that of esports, with organized tournaments like the World Championship of Online Poker, which attracts top players and offers big prize pools. Like esports, poker tournaments attract massive audiences. Even with all of those similarities, some aren’t convinced poker is an esport or should be classified as one. They point to the different skill sets required for poker versus traditional esports, something that differentiates it from video games.

The Global Phenomenon

From The International for Dota 2 to the League of Legends World Championships, it’s hard to deny the global impact of esports in recent years. These two competitions alone have attracted massive audiences and boast large prize pools, with the best teams and players from around the world competing. Thanks to platforms like YouTube and Twitch, there’s no need to travel to these events; fans from anywhere in the world can tune into these events live to see their favourites compete.

One only has to look at the financials to get an even better understanding of esports’ success. Esports has multiple revenue streams, including sponsorships, advertising, ticket sales, and media rights, and popular brands are increasingly looking to invest. And since we have moved away from a world without digital technology to one that is wholly immersed in all things online, investing in the world of esports has never looked better.