Throughout my entire high school career, my friends and I spent countless hours playing the FIFA soccer video games after school. It was a great way to hangout and relax after spending a long day at school, and it also allowed us to spark a little competition to see who was the best among our group of friends. It’s safe to say that my friends and I are “casual gamers” who play because it is fun and keeps you occupied. There are, however, people that take gaming incredibly seriously and even compete in order to make a living out of it. Similar to the way professional athletes get paid for playing the sports they love, professional gamers are now getting paid for playing the video games they love.
In Eric Dunning’s The Dynamics of Modern Sport: Notes on Achievement-Striving and the Social Significance of Sport, he describes that as years progress, sports are becoming more and more serious and there are people who are trying to be professionals in their respective sport. I would contend that this is true for all competition in the gaming world today, both physical and virtual. For example, Major League Gaming (MLG) was started in 2002 and has held tournaments across the United States and Canada in order for gamers to prove that they truly are the best at their game of choice. It would be easy to say that this MLG is stupid and has no significance because these are just videogames tournaments. I mean my friends and I have FIFA tournaments in our dorms all the time, what’s the difference?
The difference is these MLG tournaments have been broadcasted on television, broadband websites, and even ESPN.com. Also, it has opened an entirely new spectrum to gaming that did not exist before. Now, amateur gamers that wish to become professionals assemble a montage of their playing ability in an attempt to be invited to the various tournaments or to receive sponsorships from various controller and headset companies. This process is extremely similar to the way a high school athlete attempts to get recognized by a college in which they send a highlight video in order to receive a scholarship.
These gaming tournaments are not for chump change either. A recent FIFA MLG tournament that featured four finalists that were ranked top 4 in the world came together in a battle to win $10,000. The entire tournament was featured on a live stream broadcast on the MLG website and had viewers from all over the world to see who the best FIFA player really is. I doubt Dunning had this in mind when he was talking about professional vs. amateur athletics, but his concepts are still extremely relevant to professional gaming even though no there is no actual physical activity going on. I’m sure that these professional gamers would definitely say that they love the game that they are playing, but it is evidently clear that the seriousness has risen extremely and is only going to increase with MLG constantly attempting to expand their tournaments. I think, in the same sense as sports, the idea of professionalism in no way corrupts the integrity or spirit of the game, but it solely increases interest and quality of the participants because now the competition to be the best is raised tremendously. Improvements in technology have changed professional gaming and have brought it into the limelight. Now, only the truly talented can become professional because games are consistently becoming more difficult and realistic. Also, improvements in broadcasting have given gaming organizations such as MLG a platform to show off the popularity of videogames and it allows them to create a larger viewing audience. At this point, it seems professional gaming has nowhere to go but up from here.