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Competitive Gaming Ain’t No Joke: Why E-Sports Are Here to Stay

This is a landmark year for competitive gaming, a.k.a. e-sports. What was once considered a phenomenon that could only take place in countries like South Korea and Japan is coming North America—the 2016 League of Legends World Championship.

This is the sixth consecutive year the championship has taken place. Now, teams across the world are coming to the U.S. to compete for Summoner’s Cup. This year’s competitors will make their bids for fame and fortune in historic sports arenas, such as Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center.

League of Legends World Championship 2015
League of Legends World Championship 2015

These arenas are home to legendary basketball teams like the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Arenas that seat over 18,000 spectators. Arenas that aren’t booked without the intention to fill every seat. Arenas that typically host spectators who are historically at odds with the world of competitive gaming.

E-sports is ubiquitous in eastern countries, especially countries like South Korea where children look to competitive gamers as their idols and role models rather than football and basketball players. This is the third year the LoL World Championship is taking place on the road, solidifying a tradition that began in Asia in 2014. (Last year’s championship took place in cities across Europe.) Although it was impressive, it wasn’t altogether surprising when the 2014 LoL World Championship sold out arenas in cities like Seoul and Tokyo. North Americans have come to expect our human counterparts in the East to fill entertainment niches like this.

So what makes the emergence of professional video game players competing in arenas in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles a watershed moment? Easy. A marginalized underground culture the mainstream media has regularly ignored is stepping into the spotlight, proving that competitive gaming isn’t just an “Asian” phenomenon. It’s even possible that this uprising of North American teams, who typically have their collective asses kicked by South Korea or Japan, could be galvanized by competing at home.

The New York Times is one news source that has reliably remarked on e-sports in recent years.

“I have heard smart people in the business predict that competitive gaming will make it into the Olympics in the next couple of decades,” wrote Nick Wingfield in an article for the New York Times last October.

ESPN has also foreseen the momentum building up in the sphere of competitive gaming. Last month the 2016 Halo World Championship, aired on ESPN. Twitter freaked out, many claiming that competitive gaming didn’t have a place on the channel.

In many ways, this year’s LoL championship bares many similarities to the rise of the United States soccer team actually being some kind of contender in the World Cup, another event that used to be ignored by most Americans. Now Americans lend feverish support to the U.S. team during the World Cup. (Although the sport is largely ignored in the absence of World Cup matches, more and more Americans show their support in each subsequent championship.)

Ultimately, when an event sells out huge arenas, which the 2016 LoL World Championship likely will, and regardless how new, odd or niche an event is, it becomes clear that it’s not just a fad anymore. E-sports are here to stay despite the naysayers and traditionalists who balk about semantic definitions of what a “sport” is.

Those who doubt whether this year’s LoL championship will sell out need only to look toward last year’s final in Berlin—it sold out three minutes after tickets went on sale.

Couple the news of the 2016 LoL World Championship being hosted in North America with the coverage of competitive gaming offered by mainstream sources in recent years, it is patently obvious that e-sports will only get bigger, both globally and in North America.

Source: NY Times