Video Games: Increasing in Popularity and Seriousness

MLG_by_xIARiiSIx

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.

Fifa_15_logoThese 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.

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6 comments

  1. jbaren · October 15, 2014

    This is a really interesting topic, and as a big athlete myself, and FIFA gamer like you, dverdere, I had never heard of the MLG or the tournaments being broadcasted. I truly believe everyone has a place in this world, and if it be a member of the MLG, so be it. However, more details would be necessary for further analysis as I’m wondering if these gamers that are recruited by their videos finish high school and then go to college like amateur athletes, or do they solely devote their time to gaming after high school and never get an education? Whatever gains attention around the world is going to be featured on national television, ESPN.com, etc., so the fact that these tournaments have made it there makes sense as the main drive in this modern day is earning money. Whatever the best option for that individual is to earn money, they’ll soon realize it and then pursue it. If it be gaming, great. However, one needs to realize the huge difference in professional sports compared to professional gaming: physical activity. Sitting in a chair all day and practicing gaming vs. running on a track or hitting the gym…which individual do you think will lead to a healthier life? Staring at a screen all day or getting exposure to the sun and building muscle? However, again, more details would be necessary on the time commitment these gamers have to put in to make it a career because that would determine whether or not they have time for exercise or not. Overall, however, it doesn’t seem like it’d be the best life career option as nothing they make happen on the television screen is “real” – it’s not making a real difference in the world, at least in my eyes. There’s no long term effect – nothing like a lawyer helping his client avoid unnecessary punishment, nothing like a construction worker building a bench for a bus stop, and nothing like a lifeguard keeping watch over the public’s safety. These jobs all have real effects on people’s lives. However, these gamers just play the game, and then it’s gone.

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  2. hsharf · October 16, 2014

    I have never really thought of video games on a competitive level, especially as and individual who has played video games casually for their entire life. I have always thought as video games as something I do for fun with friends; a game if you will. On the contrary, I have always thought of sports as something competitive that I take very seriously. This brings up Dunning’s argument regarding amateur vs. professional sports or activities. Dunning explains how sports have become more and more competitive and serious; furthermore he argues that the amateur sports are purely for fun while the professional level is not. Does the seriousness and prize involved in competitive gaming make it a sport? I don’t think so. But it can be classified as a game. Also, this “game,” like conventional sports can be played on a multitude of levels. There are casual video game players that just play video games for fun with friends. Likewise there are people that play sports casually for fun. There is also the other side. There are video gamers that play video games for compensation, seriously, and with consequences. This is equivalent to professional sport leagues. Like sports, most gamers get into gaming for casual play, leisure and, fun. Over time, as skills are developed and they move onto tournaments and start to take gaming more seriously than when they were a casual player. The same is true for most athletes. People don’t pick up a sport at a young age with intentions of going on to play D1 or in a professional league. Their intentions are to have fun. As one starts to prosper in their respective sport, they start to take the sport more seriously and at this time consequences begin to form. Ultimately, there are a lot of similarities between sports and gaming. Essentially, they both start as leisure activities, and they can either remain that way are become a serious part of one’s life.

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  3. dverdere · October 17, 2014

    I in no way wanted to make gaming seem as if it is a sport. I was drawing a connection between the games themselves and the sports in which they virtually depict and how the games have increased in seriousness as well as developing a professional league. Gaming requires no physical activity, strength, endurance, but it i think it would be pretty easy to argue that in order to be good enough at video games that you are the best in the world it takes nearly as much practice time as an athlete. With any activity in which there are professionals, there are amateurs that play video games just for leisure and fun(which is what I do), but I am sure the professionals enjoy the video games as well it is just they are playing for higher stakes. The love for the game does not change with professionalism, it is the difficulty and seriousness that change as the level of professionalism is reached.

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  4. azaryff · October 18, 2014

    An interesting point to note would be that many sports that today we agree are in fact “sports” like Soccer and Rugby started out as mere leisurely hobbies. Video games could be going down the same track that Dunning described. The higher amount of cash prizes and attention elevates it from a mere hobby to an actual sport, and then there exists a distinction between amateur (for fun) and professional. I don’t believe I can say that such a distinction exists yet today for video gaming, but perhaps this will change in time. And who knows, video games might even achieve the quasi-religious status that some sports have today.

    And think about it, current professional sports rose to the mainstream from hobbies that people of the 19th century enjoyed and developed into what it is today. Maybe as technology advances, hobbies of our generation (like video gaming) will achieve the status sports have today. Who knows, maybe we’ll be watching the World Cup of Call of Duty Final between the US and Germany in the future.

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  5. shenwick · October 23, 2014

    This is a very interesting blog post. However, you state that “the idea of professionalism in no way corrupts the integrity or spirit of the game.” I believe that once players start getting paid, the reasons behind why they are playing the sport completely change. Once money starts getting involved people start playing for the money, while amateurs play sports simply because they enjoy them. People start using that money as a source of income for them and their family, changing the reasons they are playing the sport. Based off of Dunnings reasoning that Amateurs play sports purely for fun, then I believe it would fit under his definition of a sport.

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  6. mcpatton2014 · October 31, 2014

    The creation of professional video game leagues is completely changing the world of video games. Video games were seen as a recreational activity and thus very amateur; everyone could play and enjoy. In the professional world of video games, however, video games evolve from a recreational activity to a job and a way to make money. Video games started off as a leisurely activity, yet with the creation of MLG it is becoming more and more serious. This shows how the rise of professionalism in video games is the same as it was with sports, even if playing video games isn’t considered a sport or athletic activity.

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