A new craze is sweeping the nation. It’s inexpensive (essentially free), accessible, and beyond all addicting. It isn’t doing the Charleston, Bedazzling, or texting. It’s competitive gaming, colloquially known as esports. Gaming itself isn’t a new idea at all. From Pong to Tetris to Pacman, games have been around for a long time. But with the advent of the internet, gaming took a more enticing turn. Instead of sitting in your living room playing Lemmings by yourself, you could play against millions around the world. Interaction with others would catalyze the growth of competition, and soon, tournaments like the Intel Extreme Masters became outlets for gamers to express their prowess.
Before 2010, gaming was more or less contained within a segment of the population. These tournaments would attract the same dedicated people year after year. In South Korea, most of the population watched competitive Starcraft with intense interest, much like Americans watching football. But for the rest of the world, gaming was a fad that seemed to be only for the fringes of society. Enter League of Legends, a MOBA that pitted two teams of five against each other. Gamers chose champions that they controlled on a playing field, with the express goal of capturing the other teams base.
While not an original idea, League of Legends was much easier to learn than its counterpart, DoTA. On top of an easier learning curve, League of Legends was easy to download, and most importantly, free. Player base grew at an incredible rate, and in 2011, Riot Games, creator of League of Legends, hosted the game’s first international LAN tournament. Since 2011, League of Legends has grown to be the most played game in the world, with over 27 million logging on to play every day. The competitive scene is one of major significance, as the 2014 World Championship Final had a reported 27 million viewers. It’s rise to dominance has been featured as a front page article in the New York Times, and has been addressed in various other notable newspapers and magazines. Many schools have created clubs dedicated to competitive gaming. There is even a collegiate league, much like the NCAA for sports.
Yet with all this interest in competitive gaming, one question remains. Should it become a legitimate sport? In order to answer that question, we must ask another: what defines a sport? According to Wikipedia, a sport involves competitive physical activity. But if the IOC considers chess a sport, Wikipedia’s definition a bit moot. Competitive gaming requires extreme mental stamina and incredibly fast reaction times, which under normal circumstances might allow it to pass as a sport. But for the good of the nation’s future, gaming should remain as a outlet of leisure and enjoyment, not something that supposedly could be passed off as a career.
An important part of sports is that they promote getting up and exercising. We are facing an obesity epidemic, and yet if we establish gaming to be a sport, we promote a sedentary lifestyle as a path to success. Club soccer may become a thing of the past if we push for gaming to be established as a sport. Why pay a coach to teach kids to kick a ball around if they are more interested in gaming? We dilute the meaning of a sport and damage kids in the process.
Competitive gaming’s biggest asset is also its biggest liability. It is so accessible that anyone, no mater their background, income level, and most importantly, grade level, can hop on and play for hours on end. But by exposing gaming to the nations youth, we are inadvertently fostering a passion in a field that doesn’t lead anywhere. If the passion of gaming led to an interest in computer science, we could at least have employable individuals. But currently, the competitive scene merely promotes itself, generating interest in a hobby that provides no legitimate skills. Studies show that gaming improves hand eye coordination, but unless the next generation wants to all work in factories, they need to learn STEM. If companies like Riot Games do not invest money into promoting science and engineering instead of pumping money into creating a new purchasable in game item, we may be living in a world that will be completely gone in the next generation’s lifetimes. If we want a decent future, gaming cannot be a competitive part of it.