I must admit that I am not an eSports journalist, nor am I a sports journalist, but I am a gamer and I have spent my fair share of time following eSports, namely back in the golden age of Starcraft 2, right around the release of Heart Of The Swarm; back then, League Of Legends was just being talked about by the major news outlets and DOTA2 was barely in beta.
It occurs to me now that there has been an acceleration in mainstream coverage concerning eSports, it may be that interest in the scene has been increasing slowly over time and it’s just hit a sort of critical mass, or that some unknown quality has emerged that is going to lead to the new golden age of eSports but something is on the horizon and I’m going to explore a few points that I believe have led us here.
Many might point to the large amount of money that is being thrown at the industry, with big players all over the established sport and entertainment worlds, such as ESPN and those involved with the NFL investing considerably in teams and competitions across the world, hell even Jennifer Lopez is getting in on the act. However, I see this as more of a symptom of the success of the scene, rats jumping onto a newly christened ship so to speak.
Others might look towards the stalwart individuals like Brandon Larned of Overwatch fame who have been with their respective eSports scenes from the beginning, or champions like Lee Sang-Hyeok who bring fans and foes alike to their screens, hoping to see them dethroned or crowned anew. There is a ton to be said for the individual stories and personalities that have brought eSports to this point, but like all human stories, they are ephemeral, we all stand on the shoulders of giants and I would argue that the state of a system takes very little account, especially in it’s growth, to the individual parts that grew it.
This brings me to the argument that this was an inevitable part of what eSports was going to be when it pushed itself up from it’s humble beginnings at LAN parties inhabited by only those who were in the know, truly a marginalized and stereotyped niche, labelled as basement-dwelling, energy-drink chugging troglodytes, a view that looks almost alien to the eSports culture we find ourselves in now.
While it is true that all good ideas look like they were so from the start, many more fizzle out before they become what I believe Esports will: a gargantuan industry that will come to define our future entertainment culture.
This is why I believe that there is one factor more than any other that is driving the Esports culture to new heights every year, that factor is the new, younger generation. The only way for a niche culture, to come to the fore is when it becomes normalized in the world, I honestly believe that technology has moved so fast in the last thirty or forty years that there are a whole generation of older people who hold a majority of power within the entertainment and sport industries that constantly redefine the boundaries of what we consider normal, or “trendy”.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that in recent years we have seen a rise in reboots and remakes of older franchises that kindle nostalgia in those members of generations past that saw them the first time around, it speaks to industries that see a huge rate of change in the world and are trying to cash in at both ends.
We are now seeing the first few generations where things like portable computer ownership is the norm, where media can be consumed anywhere and in real time and even where the cycle of news and culture hardly pauses, this is an entirely new kind of audience that views content in an entirely different way and this is where Esports is set to induce a paradigm shift, it is likely to become the first kind of entertainment, alongside things like Twitch streaming, that will redefine our cultural landscape just as Hollywood did at the turn of the last century.
Only when an entire generation finds itself embedded truly in a medium, do the two begin to inform each other and I think we are approaching that event horizon with every passing year and when we finally cross it, eSports will end up being bigger than conventional competition of it’s kind ever was.