Over the last year you may have noticed us focusing a bit more on electronic sports (eSports) than usual. Due to the continued and overwhelming growth of eSports, I've decided to channel my own passion for professional gaming into "Screenside", a column devoted entirely to pro gaming and all aspects surrounding it. But first let’s back up a minute so I can explain just what this eSports thing is all about.
To put it simply, eSports is competitive video gaming. You may pick up your controller every night and mess around with friends, get a few headshots, sure. That’s great. But the gamers in this world are actual professionals. These pro gamers get paid to play games. Almost any multiplayer game can turn into an eSports title but the games that generally have the largest, most devoted followings are first person shooters (FPS), real time strategies (RTS), and fighting games.
“The legacy of Competitive Gaming/eSports dates back to the late 90's, where three separate isolated incidents caused their communities to reach new heights and set the path to where we are today," said Rod "Slasher" Breslau, eSports analyst. "In 1997, Dennis "Thresh" Fong won id Software co-founder John Carmack's Ferrari in the Red Annihilation Quake 1 tournament. In 1998, Daigo Umehara made his first trip to America to play a then young Alex Valle in Street FIghter Alpha 3, marking the first ever U.S. vs Japan battle and the start of Japan's dominance. In 2000, French Canadian Guillaume "Grrrr" Patry went to Korea to participate and win the first ever OnGameNet StarLeague for StarCraft, making way for Lim “SlayerS_BoxeR” Yo-Hwan's dominance shortly after. It's more than a decade later, but we are only now seeing the FPS, RTS and Fighting scenes unify."
All over the world, eSports has steadily become incredibly popular since these events. Huge tournaments with sizable prize pools are popping up all over recently. Last year, the Halo team Final Boss won $100,000 in prize money in the Halo 3 Major League Gaming (MLG) National Championship. One StarCraft 2 pro gamer, Choi Sung Hoon (more commonly known as PoltPrime), earned 100,000,000 won (roughly $93,000) after a month long tournament in the extremely competitive Global StarCraft 2 League (GSL) in South Korea. Dreamhack, a Swedish tournament, pulled in over 900,000 unique viewers.
But that’s eSports now, and to understand why pro gaming is back with a vengeance, it’s important to understand why eSports died out in the past.
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