What we once knew as video gaming is now “e-Sports,“ and the industry's economic potential seems far greater than previously predicted.
We humans have always been keen to experience other worlds, and that is probably why we have used language to create stories, myths, and epics since the dawn of history. Many linguists are confident that almost as soon as writing was invented—circa 4000 years ago—it was immediately put into use to create entertaining content such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, written around 1800BC.
With the digital revolution and the widespread availability of affordable computers and internet connections, we can now experience other worlds in a far more realistic way than merely passively listening to stories, reading novels, or watching a movie. Interactive video games give the players an opportunity to enjoy virtual worlds with different realities, and to test their resourcefulness to accomplish objectives.
Since the advent of the first video games in the 1960s and the introduction of various dedicated consoles and games for personal computers, some people have proven to be been better at playing such games than others. As early as the 1990s, rivalry in gaming skills and an urge to show off one’s superior technique led to the birth of informal gaming competitions—often in places with a sizeable young population such as university campuses and dorms. Such competitions sometimes involved skipping classes and the exchange of trash-talk between the two sides.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, however, video gaming competitions have evolved into well-organized leagues and events which are subject to rules and regulations. Such competitions are increasingly referred to as e-Sports. e-Sports have taken off in a big way not only thanks to advancements in graphic chips, consoles, and digital displays, but also because the concept of e-Sports has become more respectable in the popular culture.
There was a time when video gaming was frowned upon by older generations and largely regarded as a waste of time—or at best tolerated as a benign form of fooling around. That attitude, however, is changing as the advantages of e-Sports in terms of education, entertainment, and—at the very least—cathartic benefits are becoming clearer.
“There are still many taboo issues and a general lack of knowledge about e-Sports. We need to educate broadcasters, our audience, and the public in general about what e-Sports can actually bring to their audience, sponsors, and potential partners as well,” according to Raul Fernandez, General Manager of Riot Games in the LATAM region.
The growing appeal and social acceptability of e-Sports have given rise to certain business opportunities, with companies across the world emerging to serve the e-Sports community: Arena, for example, is a Mexico-based company that operates a chain of gaming centers with some 18 branches across the country.
Luis Fernando, Arena’s Director, recently told TBY in an exclusive interview about a new trend that they have discovered in the industry: “One of the trends we have identified recently is that gamers not only want to play, but also want to watch and follow.
So, we have large crowds of people connected all the time and coming to Arena to live their passion for video games. They watch professional leagues, for example our 2020 Free Fire Final had around 1.2 million viewers. We understand that the opportunities come from not only having people playing, but also watching, following, and living that passion for games.”
As such, the company has launched the first and—as of the time of publication—only e-Sports stadium in Latin America in a chic mall in Mexico City. The aforementioned e-Sports stadium is a joint project with Riot Games and TV Azteca Deportes, and it was inaugurated in February, 2020, to bring together the gamers and lovers of video games during events such as the Latin American League of Legions.
Gaming is no longer considered to be the domain of the lonely and antisocial. It has matured into an interactive form of entertainment with a sizeable audience.
With the emergence of e-Sports as a way of life, an entire supply chain has been created to make e-Sports possible, including game developers, gaming centers, amateur and professional players, gaming leagues, and game critics. Whether we like it or not, the industry is going to enjoy an exponential growth and a jump in its turnover in the coming years thanks to its huge fan base, who love to experience these novel interactive worlds.