eSports a modern phenomenon
What does it take to be a pro gamer?
Bursting onto the entertainment scene is eSports, organized teams of professional gamers competing for large prize pots in tournaments worldwide. This billion-dollar modern phenomenon is taking the world by storm with a forecasted compound annual growth rate of 21.9%.
What makes eSports popular?
The popularity of eSports comes as no surprise, combining the competition of traditional sports with the accessibility of gaming. Where you might find it difficult to gather enough people in one place to play a football match, with eSports you can use the internet to connect to millions of potential opponents from the comfort of your own home and what’s more, thanks to streaming services like Twitch, it’s just as easy for fans of a game to watch their favorite stars playing alone or in tournaments.
With attractive salaries and prize money, eSports, like traditional sports, sells a dream to people all over the world. No matter who you are or where you are from, if you train hard enough, you can become a star. Who wouldn’t want to earn a decent living playing their favorite game?
The daily routine of an eSports professional
The reality, however, is that only a tiny percentage of those who dream of becoming professional gamers will ever make it, and even then, the lifestyle may not be what people think. Being a professional gamer, much like being successful in any competitive profession, requires rigorous and consistent training. It is not unusual for pros to play for more than 10 hours a day. The games are structured, specific drills are performed over and over again and gameplay is poured over and analyzed in team meetings. In order to counteract the numerous negative health effects that playing video games for such long periods of time has on their bodies, pros need to eat healthy, sleep well and manage their time outside of the game to fit in regular exercise as well as everyday duties, which leaves very little time for socializing and spending time with loved ones. If we observe the daily schedule of one of League of Legends' most prolific talents, Lee Sang-hyeok, a.k.a. "Faker," we can see that he spends 7.5 hours sleeping, 12 hours playing, 2.5 hours eating, 1 hour practicing outside of the game and has 1 hour a day of free time.
The treatment of Pro Gamers
Unfortunately, there have been many stories throughout eSports of player mistreatment by organizations. With little regulation and no player union to protect them, young hopefuls and even somewhat established names are subject to, at times, 40-page contracts full of stipulations and terms. For example, many of the contract offers are timed, meaning a person has a very limited time to agree to a contract offer before it is rescinded. Contracts that include the following clauses are also common.
- Allow the player to be released by the organization without cause and with no remuneration.
- Allow the player to be traded to another organization, including foreign organizations, without the player’s consent or consultation.
- Allow the organization to match any outside contract offer, meaning the player will be obligated to re-sign with the organization.
The international nature of eSports makes it difficult to form a universal player union and therefore, this kind of conduct is difficult to quash.
The future of eSports
As previously mentioned, the growth of eSports is all but guaranteed thanks to its accessible nature coupled with its profitability. In fact, serious talks have already been had regarding its future as an official Olympic competition. The Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) debuted in the 2021 games and sparked some controversy for a number of reasons. The first is that although eSports is a highly skilled competition, it is not a physical competition. The second is that, unlike sports, eSports are based on video games that are company-owned. Corporations are likely to pay millions of dollars in order to get the exposure that being featured in the Olympics would bring if eSports were ever to become a fully integrated Olympic competition. A way around this, although unlikely, would be for the IOC to produce games specifically for the Olympics.
If eSports continues to grow in popularity, it will likely need to consider how to deal with issues such as player treatment, gaming addiction and healthy gaming practices in order to keep fans healthy and avoid backlash from the public and other sectors.
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