Everyone has considered eSport games a hobby that can be individual, collective, or family. What is less known is that video games can also become a medium for competitions…
In this context, “cyber athletes” compete in various games and, for some, make them their professional activity main.
A recent phenomenon, the first references to the professional practices of video games (we speak of “pro gaming” or “esport” for electronic sport practiced by “pro gamers”) appear from the beginning of the 1980s.
Between 1981 and 1983, a few American arcade gamers (such as the game Donkey Kong, in particular) began to play professionally. They were paid for their services that were broadcast occasionally on American television.
Beyond a few first very anecdotal examples, it will be necessary to wait until the end of the 90s to witness the first international video game competitions.
A Discipline That Organizes Itself
In 1997 in the United States, the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) organized the first large-scale competitions before ceasing its activities a few years later.
The same year, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) was founded in Germany to organize competitions between European players.
A few years later, the ESL claims over 2.2 million users for more than 500,000 teams competing in national and international tournaments.
In 2000, South Korea (now a reference country in terms of electronic sports) inaugurated the World Cyber Games (WCG), presenting them as the “Olympic Games of video games.”
Each year, players from over 70 countries compete as a team or individually in different disciplines (from action games to sports games, including combat games and shooters) to distinguish the best “cyber-athletes” in the world.
At the same time, from 2003, in France and then abroad, the Video Games World Cup ( Electronic Sports World Cup or ESWC) was organized.
Within the framework of these official tournaments, highly organized and codified (with a licensing system, rules applied by referees, etc.), the players compete in skill and game intelligence to win.
And as such, the “cyber athletes” claim to be real sportsmen who compete for the titles of various electronic sports competitions.
A “Show” In Search Of Notoriety
However, suppose the authorities of electronic sport erect the video game to the rank of sport in its own right, with its individual exploits, champions, victories, and awards. In that case, these events are, above all, a “spectacle” in search of sponsors.
Electronic sport is thus regularly the subject of exhibition matches (or “show matches”) without sporting stakes but impressive for the public.
The players are not left out, and the women’s electronic sports teams contribute to the notoriety of the discipline, thus arousing a strong enthusiasm on the part of the public and the media.
It is this same logic that, in 2004, pushed the Ubisoft studio to create the female team of the “Frag Dolls” (without doubt one of the best-known esports teams by the general public).
The French studio (yet very little involved in the sphere of electronic sport) has recruited a handful of players presented as “pro gamers » regularly participating in exhibitions at media events.
But more than sportswomen, these five players have taken on the role of video game ambassadors, and the “franchise” has spread to the United States, Great Britain, and then France from 2005 to the end of 2007.
In electronic sports, competitive eSport games are often intended to promote industry and arouse the interest of the media.
Like wrestling, which aims to be a spectacular show, and where boxing appears more like a sport, electronic sport also intends to seduce the general public and seems to search for notoriety.
And it is easy to understand: the media exposure of the teams determines, in particular, their ability to attract the sponsors who finance the sector.
Because beyond all sporting or media considerations, “pro gaming” also comes with significant financial challenges.
The Financial Challenges Of “Pro Gaming”
This combination of “sporting achievement” and “spectacle” contributes to the emergence of professional gaming.
As in other disciplines, video game tournaments are endowed with “cash prizes” (it is often computer equipment and, to a lesser extent, cash prizes).
And just as an athlete monetizes his image with famous brands for advertising purposes, professional video game players are also sponsored (Intel or Microsoft, for example, support teams of players).
And so long, these “cash prizes” were only intended to pay players for their travel and accommodation at the competition venues.
They have gradually allowed certain players to make their practice of video games their main professional activity and remunerate the coaches.
And the agents of their team. This is mainly the case in South Korea, where some players still in the minority can make a living from this activity (see box).
On the other hand, in France, the earnings distributed in competitions are still too modest to make it a stable professional activity.
Indeed, the notoriety of esports is still too marginal to interest sponsors likely to pay players.
The Korean Example
The example of South Korea is particularly significant in this regard. South Korea, the true homeland of online video games and electronic sports, has several of the best players in the world whose matches are broadcast on local specialty television channels.
These Korean players, recruited very young (between 15 and 17 years old), who commit themselves to several dozen hours of training (between 60 and 75 hours per week depending on the level), are traditionally paid by their teams.
The few best players in the world can share up to 200 million won per year (about 135,000 euros) in endowments and sponsorship.
If the sum seems attractive, it must be weighted. For the 100th player in the Korean ranking, this remuneration averages only 10 million won per year (about 6,700 euros – a little less than the average Korean salary).
The amounts decrease as quickly as the ranking. Indeed, despite the widespread enthusiasm for electronic sports, it is estimated that only 200 professional players can regularly live from their winnings in competitions.
Beyond that, especially within the “B teams” (substitute teams), the players are not paid and must be content with “pocket money.”
Suppose video game competition remains a relatively marginal activity today. In that case, we nevertheless note that the “multiplayer” modes offered in most current video games serve as arguments for the practice of electronic sport.
Competitive games (shooting games, strategy games, racing games, sports games, MOBAs1, these hybrid games combining action, strategy, and team games) are developing as fast as online games.
Perhaps we should see here the real scope of practice activity in perceptual development, which seeks to attract an ever more diversified public.
In addition, I also know that electronic sport is not the prerogative of professional or semi-professional players, and it can be practiced in a more amateur and leisure setting.
Many structures have been developed similar to video game clubs that will allow your child to participate in computer and console competitions.
MOBA, for “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena,” or multiplayer online duel game in an arena (among the most famous MOBAs are Defense of the Ancients (DotA), League of Legends, and Heroes of Newerth.