Although it is still a niche subject, eSport has a long history. eSports and the gaming industry have come a long way in the past 40 years. The eSports industry has slow grown and earned the reputation and level of importance it has in the world. It has bloomed into what it is today thanks to the little moments that lead up to the huge explosion of professional gaming.
Let’s take a look at some of these:
Stanford University and the Battle for a Rolling Stone Subscription
The year was 1972. A group of students at Stanford University were competing for the top prize of a Rolling Stone subscription through a game of Spacewar!; it was to go down as the first eSport competition in history. According to Polygon, the competition took place in the Stanford Labs where the twenty gamers engaged in a free-for-all and team event.
In the end, three players reigned supreme. Free-for-all winner, Bruce Baumgart, and team mates, Slim Tovar and Robert E. Maas, all walked away with the prize and the glory. That was the event that started it all.
The Space Invaders Championship of 1980
It wasn’t until years later that the first real video gaming competition took place. It was the Space Invaders Championship of 1980, in which 10 000 gamers took part. While it was still a new concept and never a serious sport at this point, it set us off for what we have today.
1990s: The Decade Computers and Arcades Became Cool
The 1990s was the decade that everything changed in the world of technology. Computers became popular, and as did arcade and console games. More and more households were getting connected, allowing PC games, such as Warcraft to be played in competitions. Arcades were popular hangouts for teenagers and children, where many of them took turns in playing classic games, such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. It was, however, simply a pastime at this stage.
Image: YouTube 'Classic Game Room - MS. PAC-MAN arcade game review'
South Korea Gets Serious
When Dutch professional gamer Manuel Schenkhuizen spoke to the New York Times in 2014, he revealed who is responsible for the growth of professional gaming:
“Pro gaming exists in its current form and size in large part thanks to the people who made it possible in South Korea. Other countries took years to catch up and are to this date trying to mimic some of their successes.”
The Koreans were among the first to take eSports seriously. When Starcraft was released in 1998, they took the opportunity to use it to round up some of their most skilled players and throw them into competitions. The country also broadcast the competition on television a year and a half following the game’s release.
“StarCraft was a huge hit and helped propel competitive gaming into the public eye,” Chief Executive of SuperData Research, Joost van Dreunen told FT.
According to Gamurs, the Korean government launched the Korean eSports Association in 2000. Since then, the organisation worked to give eSports the credibility and reputation it has today and still has a huge role in the growth of eSports.
The Major Gaming League Is Brought To Life
By the 2000s, the rest of the world started to catch up. The Major Gaming League was established in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovanni and Michael Sepso. It grew to become one of the biggest organisations in gaming as it worked to promote professional gaming as a real sport, nurture its growth throughout the world and give fans opportunities to view competitions and other gaming content through different types of media. They even brought gaming to television, which leads us onto the next moment.
Professional Gaming Goes Mainstream
It was a big moment when the first eSports game was televised in 2006. USA Network broadcast the Halo 2 leg of the Major Gaming League in a show called the Boost Mobile MLG Pro Circuit. Unfortunately, the broadcasts did not last long as they were removed from broadcast after two seasons, as reported by Fortune.
Despite this, it was huge for gaming to have that recognition by the mainstream media, and paved the way for the broadcasts to be moved to online platforms.
Twitch Takes Over
In 2011, online streaming service Twitch was launched in order to bring more fans to the sport and allow them to get closer to the action. Thanks to Amazon, it became mainstream in 2014 after they took over.
eSports In 2016
Here we are in 2016, and eSports is getting bigger as more and more people become aware of it. There are many competitions that occur throughout the world, where players can play a variety of different games with the chance to win prizes of up to millions of dollars. It's continuing to grow in popularity with the rise in interest in gaming content across the web.
What will we see in the future? More competitions around the world? eSports as an official Olympic event? There’s only one way to find out.
WORDS BY JESSICA TESTA