There is a good chance whenever you hear a story about eSports it will either be about League of Legends, or you'll think about League of Legends. Unless of course you're a Pokémon fan, then you might think of some of the Pokémon games (I hear Pokémon has a big competitive gaming scene). Electronic Sports (eSports) is certainly not a new concept but it does seem to be gaining in steam, and the fact League of Legends is helping with this initiative is probably why it is the game many people think of when they hear the term - eSports.

This is the first of a couple blogs I plan to write about eSports, each different enough they warrant their own blog. I think it's a fascinating topic with a number of different angles, but perhaps my own uncertainty on the topic contributes to my interest in the subject.

I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about what eSports is and what it isn't. In its simplest form, it is nothing more than organized video game competition. If you've heard of Major League Gaming or World Cyber Games or any of the other leagues or competitive ladders, then you have at least been exposed to the fundamentals of eSports.

"Electronic sports (eSports) is a term for organized video game competitions, especially between professionals. Related terms include competitive gaming, professional gaming, and cybersport. The most common video game genres associated with electronic sports are real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena. Tournaments such as the World Cyber Games, the Evolution Championship Series, and the Intel Extreme Masters provide both live broadcasts of the competition, and cash prizes to competitors." (Source: Wikipedia)

So what does all that mean?

It means there are gamers out there who are really good at a particular game - so good in fact that they get sponsors and make a lot of money for playing video games professionally.

How much money?

Well, some of them make enough money it can be more lucrative to quit school or a good job to pursue a career as a professional gamer. Who wouldn't want to make that kind of money for playing video games? Heck, I would if I could.

So why should you care?

The truth is you might not care. I'm not entirely sure I care. Maybe none of us should care - maybe all of us should care? That's part of what I am trying to figure out.

I'm not a fan of not having a side. Whether it's just a small issue or a big battle, I'm the sort of person who likes to review the merits of both sides and take a stand. But this issue, this is an issue I can sort of see both sides of it. Especially when I didn't even recognize there could possibly be two sides on the issue. It would seem like gamers who make it big, get paid to play video games, and can support themselves and their families is a win for all of us, no? But apparently not all gamers support eSports?

Can that be true?

I recently observed a conversation about the subject with varying perspectives, but two views in particular were polar opposites. On one side was a young kid aspiring to be a professional gamer. Heck, I want to be a professional gamer, but I'm smart enough to know I don't have the skills. Anyway, this young man, this is what he wanted to do. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with dreaming of being a professional gamer. Just stating that was one side of the spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum was a gamer who strongly opposed the whole notion of eSports. He thought people getting paid that kind of money to play video games were not only detrimental to the video game industry, but also had a negative influence on society in general. I was kind of surprised with this perspective. I could see non-gaming organizations and/or individuals having this belief, but other gamers? Perhaps.

I think ultimately, I don't really see an issue with the pro-gaming scene and mostly endorse it. More power to them. But I think there are a lot of similarities with athletes from other sports. Most people with aspirations to be a professional athlete seldom get the opportunity since it is such a crowded field. And those who do make it sometimes go on to be transformed by the experience and wind up playing more for the money than love of the game. I've heard many people who work in the industry admit it changes their view on games; I can only imagine the impact it could have on those who play games professionally. And I can't help but wonder if this competitiveness contributes to the unique qualities often associated with the communities who play these games and if that is good or bad for the industry as a whole. I don't know if I'd go as far as saying it somehow damages society. That might be a stretch. I think there are far worse things in the world affecting our nation than gamers.

I've said before the video game industry is a business, and businesses need to make money to survive. But if I had any reservations about eSports, I suppose it would be that anytime you inject that amount of money into anything, it can be abused and have unforeseen consequences. Of course it might take a while for us to see whether this happens or not. If we see Vegas start betting on League of Legends matches, then maybe we should be concerned. Oh wait, there are already online eSports betting websites? Oh, I see...

(Image: Pinnacle Sports)

Truly, I'd love to hear some different perspectives - those for and against eSports. Again, I don't really have a side, so you're not going to hurt my feelings with whatever side you're on. Who knows, you might even make a strong argument and convince me which side to pledge my allegiance to, or at least give me some points to consider.

Regardless of what you or I think, eSports is going to continue to grow and prosper in 2014, and probably the years to come. I've seen the swarms of gamers crowd into packed conference halls to watch their favorite League of Legends teams compete; I've seen the numbers of people playing Dota 2 at any given time, and I've watched shows where Star Craft 2 gamers from other countries are regarded as stars. On the surface it all seems like great news for gamers, but I'm a little leery of the potential dangers lurking below the surface.