While names such as SpawN, Vigoss and Toyz are not well known household names such as Messi, Matfield and Spieth, the world of eSports is a growing and competitive one. Last year, viewership of the League of Legends (LoL) world championships reached 36 million compared to the NBA (23 million) and the MLB (17 million) finals. But what are eSports?
eSports are organised video game competitions usually involving by professional gamers. In South Africa, eSports fall under Mind Sports South Africa, which is one of the founding members of South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and operates on a school, league, provincial and national level. Since 2013 it is has been possible to receive provincial and national colours in eSports.
There are many games that can be played in various eSports competitions. The most common are first person shooter games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and multiplayer online battle arena games such as Defence of the Ancients (DotA 2) and LoL. LoL is considered to be the most played game and also boasts the highest viewership, but for pro gamers who want to earn from their sport, DotA 2 is the first choice. Since 2011, DotA 2 tournaments have awarded over $60 million in prize money, with the last year’s main tournament, called The International, reaching a prize pool of $18.5 million.
South Africa is not left behind in the world of eSports. Our national teams compete in various international tournaments and teams from South Africa attend various competitions around the world. The annual rAge expo hosts a competition for seven of the top games, awarding prizes to the winning pro gamers. This year, the Telkom Digital Gaming League (DGL) will award R1 million in cash during the league to the winning DotA 2 and CS:GO teams in their DGL Masters, which runs from April to October. Eight gaming teams will be invited to compete in the event, with Aperture Gaming, Bravado Gaming, CarboN eSports, Damage Control, In-Finity Gaming, Veneration E-sports, White Rabbit Gaming, and Xperts@Total.Chaos sending teams to participate in the competition.
Like many sports, individual players become well known and gain a committed fan base. Injuries are also not uncommon, as with the high speed and accuracy needed, hand and wrist injuries can put players out for months. LoL player Hai Lam, from the US eSports team Cloud9, was even forced to retire from his career after receiving a wrist injury that impaired his performance.