Becki DeGeest, MSUM, Multimedia Journalism
For years the world of physical sports, football, baseball, basketball, etc., has commanded the world’s attention, but now the not-so-new sport of video gaming has given a new meaning to the name of sports and continues to grow with what is eSports.
eSports is a new world of competitive gaming that transforms video games into a spectator sport for not just the players.
Games such as “League of Legends,” “Dota II” and “Starcraft” have blown open the doors of traditional online gaming, creating a new gaming community, even here in the Midwest.
Raking in millions of dollars, Riot Games, publishers of “League of Legends,” holds international tournaments where fans gather to cheer on their favorite teams, just as football or soccer fans do. In downtown Fargo, Section 9 Cyber Cafe holds eSports tournaments for local enthusiasts who watch or play. These games have also has become increasingly popular for college students in the area.
League of Legends on an international level
“League of Legends” is known in the industry as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, where five players compete against five others. At its peak, the largest live stream broadcast of an event drew more than 8.5 million fans, and a total of 1.1 million watching streams of one video at the same time. This year’s large tournament was in October and took place in L.A.’s Staples Center.
“League of Legends,” the free-to-use multiplayer pc game, has over 32 million active players and 70 million registered players according to a release done by Riot Games. Not only do they have one of the largest user bases, last year the game was recognized by the U.S. as a sport.
Erik “DoA” Lonnquist, “League of Legends” professional commentator, in South Korea said the popularity of the sport has increased substantially and continues to grow.
“It’s exciting to see a good game really take off and do so well to help change the face of the gaming community of eSports,” he said.
Lonnquist who is originally from Dawson, Minnesota also has ties to Fargo-Moorhead, where his brother studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He also has a fan base and many know and have watched “DoA” commentate.
In October, Twitch.tv, a live streaming video website, attracted over 45 million viewers, each watching, on average, 100 minutes of video a day, due to eSports. For Twitch.tv a company that is only two-years-old, these are huge record-setting numbers.
Not only is the game gaining popularity in players and spectators, but the company has also been named as No. 3 on the list of the best medium-size places to work for in 2013, based on the Great Place to Work evaluation service.
DoA who started commentating for “Starcraft,” realized the industry was growing further in another game, “League of Legends,” decided to switch and “try something new.”
Since the game’s beginning in 2010, the game has completely taken off, creating good jobs and making one of the most popular video games in the world. To show the popularity of this new sport look at it this way, Microsoft‘s most successful game, Halo has enjoyed more than 2 billion hours of gameplay since 2004. “League of Legends“ averages more than 1 billion hours of gameplay per month.
Clip from Youtube: MonteCristo & DoA: Champions of Korea
Local gamers share enthusiasm for ‘League of Legends’
The game continues to reach further and has even become popular with gamers in Fargo-Moorhead. Section 9 Cyber Café in downtown Fargo holds tournaments monthly and also offers prizes in correlation with Riot Games. The café is a place where gamers can go to play their favorite and top-rated games on up-to-date, fast-running PCs.
The last “League of Legends” tournament hosted by them on Nov. 9, proved to be a success, completely filling up in a short period. When asked about why the game has become so popular here in Fargo Stephen Sanford, co-creator and co-owner of Section 9, explains it quite simple:
“It helps that the game is free to play,” he said. “The fact that they put so much time into balancing it out is another factor. They make it so it’s competitive. It’s designed to be that way. Every character has a role that they have to fill. It could sound pretty stupid if you don’t play video games, but it’s very light-weight client, it plays off the web, so it can run on almost any computer, there’s not a whole lot of restrictions you just need a mouse, keyboard possibly a headset. It just seems to be the way sports are going, it tests your reaction time and it’s pretty much on every level of every other sport except obviously physical fitness.”
Local gamers also say that they like the game’s “learning curve,” which is another thing that brings them in on the idea that not everyone can be an expert at these games.
“I like it because there is a lot of champions to choose from and a lot of different characters to play from.” Justin Tenold of Fargo said. “It’s a competitive gave. Sometimes the games last from 20 minutes to an hour. It’s really fun when you get to play with friends, when you get to talk to each other sometimes scream at each other”
Sanford at Section 9 says that watching the games can be “just as exciting” and many serious gamers agree that watching can help with strategy.
“If you learn the game, you definitely are going to want to watch it, even if you don’t know it,” Sanford said. “I have had people who come in here (Section 9) and we’d have big tournaments, like the LCS tournament and the world championships on, who’ve never played the games and they would get excited about it. I’m glad to watch it grow like that.”
“The best part of the game for me is playing with my friends, because we all coordinate and we all have a specific role,” said Tenold. “We usually do watch other players too, mainly to see their strategies. Sometimes you watch them and see something that you might have missed.”
At Section 9, Sanford says that eSports and “League of Legends” has helped business, saying, “It seems like we could put a tournament on every weekend and we would probably make more and more money, just because how many people would want to be in here.”
With the tremendous size of “League of Legends,” it’s hard to say where the future is going with these kinds of sports, but one thing is certain, this kind of sport is not going away.