The Rapid Evolution of Esports
The growth of the modern esports phenomenon is extraordinary by any measurement. What was once a well-established yet niche segment of the gaming community has exploded in the past 2 years into the limelight. In truth, this was a development that many analysts felt was inevitable, particularly as the games industry is now by far the most lucrative entertainment sector across all regions. Yet the unprecedented events of recent years played into the hands of competitive gaming admirably. With conventional sporting events having to endure waves of cancellations, those seeking competitive thrills quickly found their way to Twitch and to live streamed events of some of the biggest esports competitions in the world, the majority of which were able to continue unhindered through this period.
Where esports stands today is distant from even a year ago, with projected audience growth of the sector growing at a relentless 11% year-on-year. Increasingly, we are witnessing sponsorship, investment and big name brands moving into the space, looking for ways to establish a presence in this growing community. This has led to the very definition of esports beginning to break beyond the bounds of its core meanings as the scene actively incorporates new modalities, approaches and types of game into its fold.
Enter “Mind Sports”
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the past several years is the growing inclusion of a group of sports and games known collectively as mind sports. These refer to numerous, often traditional, games that have developed thriving competitive scenes around them. The two best known are undoubtedly chess and poker. Purists may balk at the notion that either of these could be considered esports in the strict definition of this term, which pertains exclusively to video games. However, it’s easy to see why they are rapidly integrating themselves into the play rosters of many of the top esports athletes and teams competing online and streaming on services such as Twitch. Both have been making use of the internet to host and broadcast competitions for over 2 decades, and both enjoy the same level of global popularity shared by the biggest conventional esports like League of Legends or DOTA 2.
Crucially, mind sports also transcend regional boundaries in much the same way that popular esports such as League of Legends and DOTA 2 manage to. For example, poker fans in Thailand can take advantage of the comprehensive directories offered by platforms such as Asiabet to quickly and easily find a host of online poker (โป๊กเกอร์ออนไลน์) providers for their region. Such services have helped mind sports experience a second life online thanks to their comprehensive rating systems and competitive bonuses, which have facilitated fans of these titles in getting the best deals and promotions on them at any one time. In addition to poker, chess has been gaining ground and making a strong case for its inclusion in the esports fold. It’s already recognized formally by the International Olympic Committee and over 100 nations around the globe as a legitimate sport. What’s more, at the time of writing it’s arguably the fastest growing esport in the world today, and enjoys strong viewership figures on Twitch. Many point to the success of Netflix’s chess-themed drama, The Queen’s Gambit, as a driving factor in bringing new players to this 1000+ year old game.
A Brief History Lesson
In its narrowest definition, esports is the term used to describe anything relating to competitive video gaming. If we look back into the past, we can see events that today would be described as esports tournaments taking place as early as the 1970s. The very first competitive gaming event was for the classic arcade title Space War, in 1972. The 1980s saw the arrival of the next generation of home games consoles in the form of the NES and Sega Genesis, with corresponding events for some of the most popular titles on these systems becoming major talking points in the gaming community.
By the time we reach the 90s, esports events have begun to look very similar to what we see today, with major competitions like the Nintendo World Championship drawing thousands of competitors, spectators, and extensive media coverage. The first use of the term “esport” itself, however, wasn’t until the year 2000 in South Korea when the term was used by government culture minister Park Jie-won to describe the phenomenon. The first nation to enjoy extensive broadband networks, the small east Asian nation became a global hub for competitive gaming, a reputation it maintains today thanks to teams such as SK Telecom T1 ranking among the most dominant franchises currently competing in leading MOBA tournaments.