Is Videogaming the Future of Spectator Sport?

The following is a guest post about videogaming. If interested in submitting a guest post, please read my guest post policy and then contact me.

Since I only had a sister growing up, video gaming systems weren’t present in our house. The closest thing we had to a video gaming system was a Game Boy on which I would play Super Mario Brothers, Tetris and Kirby’s Dreamland for hours on end. I am proud to say that I made up to level 16 in Tetris and finished Kirby’s Dreamland. I don’t remember getting very far in Super Mario though.

When I was over at my cousins’ house, I would play Duck Hunt and run as fast as I could on the Nintendo Power Pad. Then came Super Nintendo. N64. Wii. The Wii seemed like the breakthrough gaming system because you would move the remote in the direction the object/character would move, rather than having to push certain buttons for certain moves. The hand-eye coordination for the remote seemed to make more sense. There were more multi-player games that catered to non- gamers. Wii was even used as a source of entertainment for guests at parties.

I recently had a brief obsession with playing Street Fighter X Tekken. There was just something about beating the crap out of somebody that got me hooked. Mind you, I am actually quite a normal, quiet and calm person in real life. The strategy my sister and I would use was to press any many different buttons as you can, as fast you can. Most of the time it worked and most of the time we wound up with sore thumbs and wrists.

While in North America, the majority of people consider gaming either a favourite past time or a favourite way to waste time, it taken seriously as a spectator sport in many Asian nations, such as South Korea. There are professional video game players who travel the world competing in tournaments, playing multi-player games such as Call of Duty. They compete for the same things as regular professional athletes: the money, the fame and the glory.

The video game obsession in South Korea is like Canada’s obsession with Hockey and America’s obsession with football.

Here are some facts that indicate just how big video gaming is in South Korea:

Professional video gaming in the country is so big that there are now two television channels that cover video gaming full time (Schiesel, 2006).

Professional video gamers are up there with movie stars and musicians. Some fan clubs of South Korea’s top gamers have more than 700,000 members (Aleksandar, 2007). Video game tournaments are so popular that the finals of top Starcraft (A PC game that is considered the most popular game in the country) tournaments are held in large stadiums, often with tens of thousands of screaming fans in attendance (Schiesel, 2006).

Becoming a professional video game player may be something to strive for. Their salaries can initially start in the six figures. In 1999, for example, a Canadian Starcraft champion took a job as a professional player in South Korea and was offered a $100,000 initial salary. Several years later he was a star making an estimated $500,000 per year. The average annual salary in Korea is $16,291 (Hua, 2006).

It is not unusual for a death to be related to extreme video game playing. A South Korean man collapsed and died after playing Starcraft for 50 hours. The only times he left the game were for brief rest periods and to use the bathroom. He was taken to the hospital after he collapsed and died (BBC, 2005).

In 2005, at least seven South Koreans died from deep vein thrombosis, heart failure, or exhaustion due to marathon gaming sessions (Ihlwan, 2006).

Talk about dedication to the sport.

While the popularity of professional video gaming in the US is not on a scale as big as South Korea, there are organizations that exist to help promote the sport. One of them is Major League Gaming, which was founded in 2002. To capitalize on the league’s fan base of mostly young males, the company recently brought in advertising veteran Donald Reilley, formerly of Amazon, as MLG’s new executive vice president for sales (Hiebert, 2013).

Mike Sepso, the company’s president and co-founder has forecasted that in five years the league with move up the ranks and be up there with MLB and NASCAR. In a decade, it will be on the same playing field as the NFL and NBA (Hiebert, 2013).

Can you imagine?

Instead of the SuperBowl, it’ll be SuperNintendo. Rather than dreaming that their kid will be the next Wayne Gretzky or Tiger Woods, maybe parents will be dreaming that their kid will be the next the champion of an MLG tournament.

Perhaps playing video games isn’t such as waste of time after all.

Author Bio: Karen lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By day, she works for the federal government and by night, she is motivating people in group exercise classes. Karen blogs about personal finance, travel, life and everything in between at MakintheBacon. You can follow her on Twitter @MakintheBacon1.  When she’s not blogging, she can be found watching tv shows on Netflix, baking, biking, reading, or obsessing over her finances

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