Electronic sports, or eSports as it is more commonly known, is gradually gaining traction in society today as the numbers and reputation of organised, professional computer gaming tournaments increase.
Gamers playing "Heroes of the Storm", developed by video game producer Blizzard Entertainment, using PCs during the Gamescom fair in Cologne, Germany. Photo: Reuters
Similar to traditional sporting mediums, there are different types of games available. From first-person shooters such as the popular Counter-Strike series, Halo and Overwatch and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft to multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games such as DOTA and League of Legends, there is something for everyone.
Just like traditional sport, eSports is a thriving avenue for big businesses due to its rising popularity. In 2015 alone, top American DOTA 2 player Saahil Arora, also known as “UNIVeRsE”, received about US$1.7 million worth of prize money from 39 tournaments.
According to BBC, market intelligence firm Newzoo recorded 205 million eSports viewers in 2014. In 2013, the League of Legends world championship drew 32 million online viewers, which surpassed even the Major League Baseball’s World Series and the National Basketball Association’s game seven of the finals.
Undeniably, there is also ongoing chatter as to whether or not eSports should be considered as a proper sport. While most definitions of sports includes some form of physical exertion, that hasn't stopped darts or billiards from being considered a sport.
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Singapore’s very own top gamer Ho Kun Xian opined that eSports is “equivalent to sport”. “We are training just as much as sportspeople train. There is more strategy involved in gaming, and you also need to maintain focus and concentration,” said Ho, who highlighted that gaming may be harder than traditional sports due to the need for mental fitness and hard work and the consideration of other factors.
Fans watch a competition during The International Dota 2 Championships in Seattle, USA. Photo: Reuters
The 26-year-old hopes that more support can be given to the eSports industry and believes that Singaporeans have talents for gaming.
“I wish the Singapore government would show more support for eSports, because I think our eSports players will definitely win more medals or golds than any sport out there if we have the chance.”
While Ho’s statement is bold, it is not unfounded. Compatriot Daryl Koh, also known as “iceiceice”, is a top player in DOTA and has winnings of more than US$1 million dollars, which is comparable to the earnings of several local sporting icons such as Fandi Ahmad and Joseph Schooling.
Urging for support from authorities and commercial sponsors, Ho hopes that through the accolades of top local gamers, attitude towards the flourishing eSports industry can change and that Singapore can produce world champions in the near future.