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Andrew Fairleigh
Professor Candio-Sekel
CRWT 102
11/17/14
eSports: A Cultural Revolution
There is no doubt that since many years ago, humans have nurtured a high value for
competition. With a way to display signs of dominance and skill, we have gained a natural
inclination to harness our gifts to gain a sense of pride over our peers. In the United States in
particular, the culture tends to extol those who are gifted in physical forms of competition. As a
result, the now colloquial term for this type of competition, sports, became the socially
acceptable way to put ones abilities to the test. This pastime was gradually integrated into our
culture; it is a commonplace act to put ones young child into some form of sport for an early
start into the sports culture. Though as much as the country indulges in competition, it is very
apparent that the term sport is usually only limited to that of which involves the exertion of
physical strength. This leaves competition that is predominantly mentally exerting to be valued
less than its counterpart. The common mental sports such as chess, trivia, and various board
games are seen to be less flashy and dynamic compared to physical sports, and this leads to the
undermining of such mental sports as a result.
Within the recent years, however, an ignition sparked the rise of a new form of mental
sport, coined eSports. This denotes competition by means of video games, most commonly those
played on the computer. This form of competition couples the flashy, dynamic aspects of
physical sports with the strenuous mental exertion from other sports to create a new form of
competition that is both exciting to watch and difficult to be skilled at. This happening is not

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unwarranted, however, since this practice has been present in many Asian countries, most
notably South Korea, before its assimilation in the western countries. Although many may say
that the participants in eSports being seated in a chair for the competition and playing through a
screen mean that eSports should not be culturally adopted as a legitimate sport, the recent
booming of eSports in the country and the similarities between the two forms of competition
show that eSports should in fact be lauded as an acceptable pastime.
Video games tend to be considered a waste of time by many. With an ample amount of
children spending countless hours in front of a screen, its formed an idea that the youth is being
zombified by video game companies. Many parents deem gaming to be worthless, and
encourage their children to go outside and play or study. This leads to a societal consensus as
kids grow up that video games are essentially useless while physical activity is praised. A
recently published meta-analysis concluded that:
The spatial skills improvements derived from playing commercially available
shooter video games are comparable to the effects of formal (high school and
university-level) courses aimed at enhancing these same skills. Further, this recent
meta-analysis showed that spatial skills can be trained with video games in a
relatively brief period, that these training benefits last over an extended period of
time, and crucially, that these skills transfer to other spatial tasks outside the video
game context. (Granic, Lobel, and Engels)
This shows that playing video games even in small doses can produce beneficial life skills that
contrast those from involvement in physical activities. The study also supports the notion of
playing video games as a pastime, similar to physical sports. The majority of people who partake
in competitive sports as a child most likely end up not pursuing sports as a career, yet parents

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still urge their kids to play. Though this is not parallel to how videogames are treated, albeit one
is encouraged not to spend so much time playing video games since there is no foreseeable
career benefit from doing so, despite physical sports sharing the same bctrait.
The skills one nurtures through video games have recently started to be valued at a
cultural level. In an interview of Riot Games Inc.s eSports director, Nick Allen talks about their
progress in developing an environment for eSports to thrive. He elaborated on some of the
previous struggles related to bringing players from overseas to participate in the United States
competitions. Then he continues to talk about their recent success in receiving visas for some of
their international professional League of Legends players in accordance with the US Citizenship
and Immigration Service's rules and regulations. He explained that this facilitates the process by
which international players gain eligibility to stay in the United States to participate in eSporting
events (Allen and Magus). The USCIS giving consent to distribute visas to professional players
is a much more grand event than explained in the interview. The visas granted to these players
officially labels them as professional athletes in relation to their legality in coming to the US.
This means that the government now recognizes those involved in professional gaming as
athletes of a sport, along with the other professional players in more common sports such as
baseball, soccer, etc. Professional gamers being recognized as athletes of a sport is the
governments way of acknowledging the eSports movement as legitimate.
An article written by Jonathan Swartz, a matriculated student at Cornell University,
outlines one of the more recent progressions in the attempt to adopt eSports as a sport. He
elaborates on how Robert Morris University, located in Chicago, Illinois, awarded the first ever
scholarship for avid video game players. The scholarship is awarded by the athletic department,
meaning the college is also the first to offer a varsity video gaming team. The team runs on a

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schedule parallel to that of the other varsity sports at the college. The team will have scheduled
practices, paid coaches, and arranged matches. Kurt Melcher, RMUs athletic director, best
describes the reasoning behind the scholarship when he states, It [League of Legends] is a team
sport that requires teamwork for it to be successful. Mentally, it takes a lot of working together,
knowing your role in the team and taking direction from a coach (Swartz). Similar to the USCIS
and its granting of visas to international gamers, the college offering athletic scholarships to
students excelling in the game is one step towards recognizing that an early indulgence in video
games is valued just as high as with physical sports. The college is attempting to be a model, to
show that being good at video games can pay off just as well as in physical sports.
A career wholly based on the eSports culture has also been shown to be valid. Jack
Etienne, general manager of a known eSports team, estimated that, Pros can make anywhere
from $30,000 to well above $300,000 annually (qtd. in Snider). Though this salary may seem
minimal in comparison to some of the professionals in sports such as basketball and football, we
can compare it to the average wage in the US, measured at $44,888.16 for 2013 according to the
Social Security Administration, and we can see that eSports professionals can very well support
oneself through gaming ("National Average Wage Index"). The salary of a player is not limited to
that bracket though. In a detailed record from New Scientist, Chen Zhihao of the Chinese team
Newbee is reported to be the highest paid esports player when his team shared a $5 million
prize at The International contest this year. (Esport by numbers 1). This shows that one's
earnings as a professional player have a positive correlation to ones performance, very similarly
to that of professionals in other sports. The dedication required is akin to that of a lifestyle
choice; a great deal of organized practice and theorycrafting is required to be successful at the
game. The high priority to practice conjoined with the vast amount of players similarly striving

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creates a community rich of passion; because of this passion, eSports can flourish in an
environment full of players attempting to become better than each other
Professional video gaming has a reassuring history relating to interest in the industry. In
the second year of League of Legends release, the championship was reported to have gathered
a total view count of 8.2 million, becoming the highest watched eSports event at the time. Riot
Games Inc. released statistics while talking about the championship the following year, over 32
million viewers watched the eSports event in total, and the broadcast hit a maximum concurrent
viewership of 8.5 million. (qtd. in Sonntag) This became the most watched eSports event of all
time, despite the games third year from initial release, almost quadrupling the record they made
the previous year. Putting this in further perspective by comparing it with other sporting events,
Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals drew 8.16 million viewers according to the NBC Sports
Group; and according to NBA.com, Game 7 in the NBA Finals drew 26.3 million viewers
(Sonntag). The NBA Championship, sixty-seven years from its inception date, obtained a max
viewership of 26.3 million people, which comes short of the 32 million viewers the League of
Legends championship obtained in only three years of its release. The prevalence of high viewer
count for eSport events displays an already standing community to support an industry of this
magnitude, while the gap between view count of the two championships shows a rapidly
growing interest in this competition. In addition this displays that eSports is already more
popular than some of its other competitive counterparts, and its rate of growth in interest can
foretell even more remarkable milestones. Esports, in theory, could become a booming industry
if this growth is observed longer.
One of the most common phrases one would hear from a dissent to the cultural adoption
of eSports would refer to the incessant clicking and keyboard smashing that encompasses the

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entirety of the game. This ideology is shown in ESPN president, John Skipper, when he
addressed eSports in response to an overwhelming inquiry from ESPN fans. He said, Its not a
sport its a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition.Mostly, Im
interested in doing real sports (qtd. in Tassi). This argument is slanted in that it lacks analysis of
eSports further than what a player is visually seen doing. One that lacks knowledge on the
specific mechanics inherent to games would only be able to interpret the physical happenings
that are present, ergo only seeing the player click and type. A game that attracts millions of
players must have some sort of viewing pleasure else there would not be a reason to watch. And
although one may nitpick the dictionary definition of the word sport and argue that eSports
does not fit the categorization, from a business perspective if a following of this magnitude is
backing an underdeveloped industry such as eSports, one can easily see that this is something for
which a part of our culture is calling.
Though practically speaking eSports will most likely never be enveloped by the already
schema for the term sports, eSports can very well be valued and praised to a similar
magnitude. The term eSports will always be used to differentiate the two from each other, but
eventually this will only be done in order to have a more specific term to refer to each entity.
With the cultural adoption of eSports in our country, others would surely be soon to follow suit.
Though it may be many years before eSports comes even close to being included in the Olympic
Games or anything of that magnitude, the saying Rome wasnt built in a day is perfectly
applicable. In the years to come we may witness a revolution in that the social hierarchy isnt
determined solely on ones proficiency in physical prowess, but also on their mental. Video
games will no longer be considered the solution to escaping ones life through a screen; eSports
will be the outlet for many to create a new pathway in life.

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Works Cited

Allen, Nick, and James Magus. "Riot Talks Tournament Format." Interview. Gamespot. Riot
Games Inc., 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"Esport By Numbers." New Scientist 223.2982 (2014): 19. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24
Nov. 2014.
Granic, Isabela, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels. "The Benefits Of Playing Video
Games." American Psychologist 69.1 (2014): 66-78. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22
Nov. 2014.
"National Average Wage Index." Social Security Administration. Social Security, Nov. 2013.
Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Snider, Mike, and TODAY USA. "'Legends' has it that this is big league play."
USA Today n.d.:Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
Sonntag, Lawrence. "LCS Worlds Post Viewership Numbers." ONE World

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Sports. O1NE, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
Swartz, Jonathan. "College to Grant 'League of Legends' Players Varsity Athletic Scholarships."
Editorial. USA Today College. USA Today, 26 June 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Tassi, Paul. "ESPN Boss Declares ESports 'Not A Sport'" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 7 Sept.
2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.