Sport and Society’s Updates

In E-Sports, Video Gamers Draw Real Crowds and Big Money

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Kos

nytimes.com | Article Link | by Nick Wingfield 

SEATTLE — A bewitching creature — half woman, half deer — battles a shaman and a sentient tree. Lightning bolts strike. Weapons explode. Nasty spells are cast.

The video game Dota 2, like so many across the Internet, transports teams of players from their bedrooms to a verdant virtual world where they smite each other through keyboard and mouse clicks. Except on this sunny day in July, every attack and counterattack by a five-person team set off an eruption of cheers — from the more than 11,000 spectators crammed into this city’s basketball arena.

The contestants were gunning for a big piece of the $11 million in total prize money, the most ever at a games tournament. And the game’s developer, the Valve Corporation, moved another step closer to securing gaming’s legitimacy as a major-league spectator sport.

Having already upended the entertainment world — global revenue for games is $20 billion higher than the music industry’s and is chasing that of the movie business — the games industry has turned its ambitions toward the lucrative world of professional video game competition, widely known as e-sports.

The signs of success already mirror the achievements of major sports. Game tournaments sell out giant arenas, and some attract at-home audiences larger than those of top traditional sporting events. Madison Avenue’s highest fliers, like Coca-Cola and American Express, have lined up as sponsors. Prize money has soared to the millions of dollars, and top players earn six- or seven-figure incomes and attract big and passionate followings, luring a generation of younger players to seek fame and fortune as gamers.

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