eSports Captivate Pacific Students
The world of competition is not what it once was. Packed arenas full of fans around the world are now cheering not just for traditional sports like soccer, baseball or football, but for more digital battlegrounds akin to the likes of Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Major tournaments, much like the ELeague Major tournament recently held in the packed Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts, feature the highest level of competition from around the world, as well as a prize pool of $1,000,000.
Counter Strike aficionado Jeff Wu ‘19, notes that, “the amount of practice that it takes to set smokes, practice callouts, and train one’s aim takes countless hours. The competitive side of things requires more than just being able to run and gun like some other shooters.”
The world of professional gaming has now enticed those outside of the traditional gaming pool, with the ELeague Boston Major champion team Cloud9 now touting investors such as San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Ohanian stated, “Growing up, I wanted to own an NFL team…now, the obvious move is to invest in an eSports franchise.”
Franchising in eSports has become an increasingly common move, as companies are now creating teams and league more and more often, with one of the most notable examples being the newly-formed Overwatch League. The Overwatch League, created and owned by Blizzard Entertainment, focuses on showcasing the best talent in the world for their team-based, first-person shooter, Overwatch.
The league consists of 12 teams representing various regions and countries, including teams such as the San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, Seoul Dragons and London Spitfire. Overwatch League and Los Angeles Valiant fan Tyler Golding ‘19, said, “I fell in love with the game, and since the League has legit teams representing various cities, it was easy for me to latch on to my favorite.”
Franchising also expands the scope of eSports as a whole, with more and more investors and sponsors increasing the scope and scale of major eSports tournaments. Competitive gaming is beginning to reach more and more people, with the grand finals of the ELeague Boston Major tournament between American eSports team Cloud9 and European team FaZe Clan peaking at 1.8 million viewers worldwide.
“The amount of money that it costs to fund tournaments, equipment, and other expenditures is very high,” Wu told The Pacifican. “I think it is awesome that lots of companies sponsor and put time into supporting eSports similar to actual sports.”
Not only has eSports grown off of the backs of smaller, grassroots tournaments, it continues to grow based off the continued supports of its intensely dedicated fanbase.
“I’ve always loved video games, but was never as into sports,” Ian Eggers ’19 said. “So it’s awesome to see one of my hobbies being represented professionally. Another great thing is that eSports are a brand new thing. It’s still developing as an industry. Since so much is founded on pro gamers and their fans, I have a large amount of input on how the eSports scene develops.”
The grassroots origins of eSports are still holding strong today, and that can be seen within the eSports community here at Pacific. Last semester brought a series of different organizations hosting eSports tournaments for philanthropic causes. One such tournament was a Super Smash Bros. tournament put on by the IMFC- InterMusic Fraternity Council, the collective group of the three different music-based Greek organizations at Pacific. All proceeds from the tournament went to Music For Relief, which would benefit the victims of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.
Smash enthusiast William Peralta ‘19 competed in the event, stating that, “It was just a great time playing Smash with other really good smash players and having friends root for their favorite player.” The Super Smash Bros. world is no stranger to philanthropy, with tournaments like the famous Smash The Record hosting various main and side events, with the most recent installment raising over $30,000 for St. Jude’s.
As Peralta explained, “Basically, different Smashers from around the world come together to play melee for the weekend, filled with different events. Melee Horse or ‘Shine,’ regional tournaments, and Smash the Baddies- an event where a high level player has 4 stocks against an endless amount of newbie smash players-are just some of the events that happen during Smash the Record.”
There are many facets of eSports that can apply to the world as a whole, and every day those facets seem to multiply. With millions of dollars being given out in prize pools, devoted fans spreading across the globe, and the business of eSports growing, the sky is the limit for the future of competitive gaming.