What comes to mind when one thinks of the word sport? Teams, stars, money, stadiums, and fans are all parts of the sports experience. Football certainly has these things, same for baseball, and basketball. What about a new field of sports that has seen its popularity boom in recent years. I’m referring to the arena of electronic sports, or eSports as it has been dubbed. “Video games aren’t sports, there’s no activity”, are just two examples of the misinformation people commonly have towards eSports. Misconceptions I will seek to rectify in this article specifically through the game League of Legends (LoL), as it is the eSport of which I have the most familiarity.
Before I go into too much detail on the merits of eSports, and LoL in particular you first need to understand the game, or understand as much as you can without playing it. In essence two teams with 5 players respectively fight on a battle field with three lanes with the hope of advancing and destroying the other team’s nexus. Sounds simple enough but blocking the lanes, are towers, minions and worst of all enemy players.
Let’s circle back to the words we associated with the word sport. Teams, all sports have teams. Basketball has the Lakers, Football has the Packers, Baseball has the Dodgers, while LoL has Cloud9, TeamSolomid, and Fnatic. Unconventional? Sure but the basic premise remains the same. A team is a group of individuals working towards a common goal. In basketball a team of 5 work together to score baskets, in LoL a team of 5 work together to destroy a nexus (makes sense in context). Another key part of teams is their positional nature. Football has the Quarterback who’s primarily responsible for throwing the ball, a Widereciever who catches the ball, and a Runningback who well, runs with the ball. The members of the team have different jobs, but play vital roles to the team as a whole. In league there are five team members, each corresponding to different part of the field, each with varying different responsibilities. You have your Top, Mid, Support, Attack Damage Carry (ADC), and Jungle. The names are certainly….unconventional(noticing a theme?) but the strategy and skill involved with other more standard sports teams certainly shows up here. I could also get into the specifics of the roles, and the responsibilities of each, but again there’s only so much you can truly appreciate without either playing the game or seeing it firsthand. Try to explain football to someone who has no experience with it. Tell them why it’s called a football even though your feet aren’t allowed to touch it. Do it. It doesn’t make any sense.
Now strategy and team work alone aren’t enough to qualify something as a sport. I mean Scrabble and Monopoly have strategy and teams but they aren’t considered must see sporting events like Football. No, you need the draw, the star power, of a LeBron James, or a Tom Brady. While certainly not as household as those names Bjergensen and WildTurtle, real names Soren Bjerg and Jason Tran are very well known within the eSports circuit.
So now that we have the draw of star power and have acquired fans where exactly are we going to place them all? American has set a global standard as far as stadiums go, as I type this there is a high school in Texas with a football stadium that dwarfs most college universities. A game played on a computer isn’t going to be able to have the stadium filling ability as other traditional sports. While it would be easy to assume so you’d be wrong. In 2013 the League Championship Series (LCS) did something the Lakers haven’t been able to do in several seasons and actually filled the staples center, selling out in under an hour.
If the preceding evidence doesn’t give enough reason to give credence to league as a sport there is one more. As is usually the case money tends to make people take things a little more seriously. This is another area, where LoL and eSports in general are beginning to step up to the plate, dishing out massive prize pools to the teams of the different members. In 2014 the prize pool the LoL W0rld Series eclipsed two million dollars. While rabid already understand the intensity and seriousness of eSports, putting money like this behind them raises the stakes for even uninterested parties. While the prize pools are nice most teams are also sponsored providing even more of an opportunity to make money. In 2015, eSports is a plausible career choice, plausible in the sense that you are as likely to make millions playing league as throwing a football, but hey less injury risk!
In essence there is nothing that truly separates eSports from their more traditional brethren. This article spends a lot of time speaking about the pro ranks but it is truly a grassroots movement, with teams popping up everywhere. From personal experience my school has a LoL club creeping towards 1000 members. The fan base will only continue to grow and maybe someday we will drop the ‘e’ from eSports, and call them what they truly are; sports.
By CALVIN BROWN / Sports Editor
Found in Fall 2015 Print Edition