Sport of the future

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By Leska Ang

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Friday, July 11, 2014


WE ARE quick to dismiss computer games as a waste of time perhaps because from what we see, it eats up one’s time. On top of that, most of the kids we see playing in computer shops are rowdy, unruly, and probably have cut class just to play. But what if there is a tremendous amount of money in computer games?

July 8, 2014 marked the beginning of the biggest competition in the history of gaming to date – The International 4 (TI4), an annual Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) tournament. On that day, the Play-In series was held where four runner-up teams were given the opportunity to join the 15 qualified groups and round out the roster to 16 competitive gaming teams hailing from the four regions - Europe, America, Southeast Asia, and China. The 16 teams would then compete for the coveted first place starting July 18.

But what exactly makes TI4 the biggest gaming competition ever? Simple. It’s the insane fan-funded prize pool of over $10 million – that’s P433 million for a single computer game tournament.

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With a prize pool of over $10M, a huge increase from TI3’s $6M, it would mean that the first place winner would go home with roughly $4.8M. To illustrate how huge competitive gaming has gotten, just three years ago when the first Dota 2 tournament, The International, was held, the winning team would receive $1M. This year, the players on the winning team of five get roughly a million dollars each – that is, without factoring in managers, coaches, and so on.

Definitely, this is just the beginning as competitive gaming’s rise in popularity is showing no signs of decline.

League of Legends, currently the most played online game with over 67 million players around the world, is well into its Summer Season for this year, and is leading towards the Season 4 World Championship that will be held in South Korea this October.

Though League of Legends has yet to break the immense record set by Dota 2 in terms of prize money, it, too, shares in the popularity of competitive gaming as its Season 3 World Championship last October raked in more than 32 million live stream viewers, with 8.5 million people simultaneously streaming the tournaments online – that is more online viewers than the British Royal Wedding, the 2012 Olympic Games, and Super Bowl XLVII combined!

Competitive Gaming is making its way to becoming a full-fledged sport.

Last year, the U.S. State Department formally recognized League Champions Series, League of Legends’ official tournament, as a fully professional sport, allowing professional gamers from outside the United States to acquire special visas that will allow them to compete in the United States professionally.

Just last month, Robert Morris University, a college in Chicago, became the first university to offer scholarships to League of Legends players as they have incorporated the game into their athletic program.

Professional gaming, as in any other professional sport, is not as simple as it seems. Unfortunately for the gaming scene in the Philippines, we are far behind from those of North America, Europe, China, and most especially, Korea.

In these other regions where gaming is more sophisticated, they have organizations that hire the best players of the game. They live in a gaming house where they regularly train, scrim, and discuss strategies and gameplays with their team of coaches.

Furthermore, they are paid a regular salary on top of the money they earn from sponsors and tournaments. Streaming solo queues are also a top income earner if the player garners a number of viewers.

So, technically, one can earn a living from playing games – the ultimate dream of computer game aficionados. However, it is important to note, for a regular player to become a pro, it would require that he or she has immense skill and strategy to compete at top tier levels. Out of the 67 million players, there are only about a couple of hundred professional players.

It is undeniable that competitive gaming has gone a long way from its humble beginnings of first person shooter games, to the breakthrough that was Starcraft, and to what it is today – an intricate and systematic sport with quality production and immense popularity that has made celebrities out of gamers. It is quite exciting to see where competitive gaming will go in the next few years.

I, for one, am looking forward to watch Worlds in Korea with my brother if our school schedules permit.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 11, 2014.

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