April 21, 2015

In recent years, e-sports events have gained a huge following with the increased popularity of MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games and the prize pools that come with it. Dota 2 provided huge incentives for players to go pro, with a record prize pool of just over $10 million dollars. The intensity, the stakes, and the excitement exist, but there seems to be some barrier that differentiates MOBA games from actual sports.

Professional gamers are the LeBron James and Michael Jordan of e-sports, pulling off god-like feats that took years of practice and strategic tactics. What makes e-sports different from physical sports is their complexity. While physical sports usually have one simple goal, e-sports are more complex; like chess, one cannot easily explain the game while at the same time playing it. Even visually, the MOBA game itself is dauntingly complicated.

The basics of MOBA game rules are relatively easy to pick up, but what makes a casual gamer different from a world class gamer is his or her skill of attack, defence, teamwork, and so on. These simple mechanics are much more complex in comparison to drills taught in sports. The viewer can understand the binary mechanics of sports, but in MOBA games, there are many more variables to consider.

Vice explored the rise of e-sports and the life of professional gamers. It appears to be more accepted in Asia, and has created very strange sub-competitions and practices. There are teams, for example, that are solely focused on creating the best cosplay (costume play), where people dress up to look like characters from these videogames. There are even mental institutions for people who are addicted to videogames.

While e-sports continue to grow and gain even more popularity, it is still a niche market. It will, however, continue to evolve simply due to its unpredictability; we’ve seen the competitive games shift from StarCraft to Call of Duty to League of Legends. At the end of it, people won’t recognize e-sports as sports unless they’ve invested time into playing the game (unlike sports), because to them there isn’t a compelling reason to care.