Thousands of fans cheer as the competitors enter the stadium. Millions more watch from home. Beads of sweat masked by a bold show of confidence, the two opposing teams promptly… sit down?
It seems these players won’t be using their physical strength in this competition. They aren’t playing football, baseball or basketball; they are playing a video game.
These players were in fact competing at the fourth annual “League of Legends” World Championship. Many teams, which various companies sponsored, all competed for the grand prize of one million dollars in the packed Seoul World Cup Stadium in South Korea. The tournament was additionally broadcasted on Twitch and ESPN3 for international viewers.
The concept of competitive gaming and “eSports,” as some games have recently become known, has become a widely debated topic in recent years. While many games from a variety of genres and franchises have multiplayer content, none can deny the overwhelming worldwide popularity of multiplayer online battle arena games such as “League of Legends” or “DOTA 2.”
The recurring success of the “League of Legends” World Championship and other championships has sparked the debate of the legitimacy of eSports in comparison to their physical sport counterparts. The debate has extended to even collegiate athletics, as some universities such as Robert Morris University Illinois have begun to award scholarships to prospective students for their prowess in eSports, similar to how scholarships are awarded to talented players of physical sports. Students are able to earn up to half of their tuition as a scholarship based on their skill.
While the university sees games like “League of Legends” as a “competitive, challenging game which requires significant amount of teamwork to be successful,” many disagree. Some people, like Case Western Reserve University sophomore Benjamin Poreh, believe that while some games are competitive, they shouldn’t be considered sports because “they don’t require agility or strength or things like that.”
“To me, ‘League of Legends’ is a game first and a sport second,” said Poreh, who considers himself a “play for fun” gamer. “It was designed with the intent to entertain and have fun. Games like this are just a different version of competitive gaming.”
However, other students, such as CWRU junior Callum Grant, hold an opposing viewpoint.
“The line between what is a game and what is a sport comes from the primary reason players want to play it,” said Grant, an avid fan of fighting games. “The skill required of players at high-level play is one of the most important aspects of determining what is a sport.”
Despite this, the two share an opinion about RMUI awarding college scholarships to players of video games.
“I believe that scholarships should be purely for academics,” said Poreh. “There shouldn’t be scholarships for any kind of gaming or sport, even physical sports. College is for learning, not athletics.”
“While scholarships for gamers is a nice idea, as it allows prospective student gamers to attend school, I don’t think scholarships should be involved with any sports team,” agreed Grant.
Regardless of its acceptance in an academic setting, though, competitive gaming continues to grow. With the high popularity of competitive gaming at CWRU, one can only wonder if a Spartan gaming team will be made in the near future.