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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Esports is a big deal

The Caroling Gaming Arena, pictured here on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, is located on the ground level of Craige Residence Hall. The Carolina Gaming Arena features 33 high-end PC stations and over 10 gaming consoles.

For many people, professional video gaming may sound like a joke. In reality, professional video gaming is a serious business.

Esports, short for electronic sports, is a fast-growing international phenomenon that takes the form of competition via video games. Streaming services and live events have allowed casual gamers to turn themselves into superstars, raking up millions of dollars in prize money and major brand endorsements.

With some professional gamers performing up to 600 actions per minute, which is about 10 actions per second, it’s time we move on from the image of a soda-chugging, frozen pizza-eating geek who never leaves his bedroom out of our minds.

Are you not convinced yet? Here’s why esports is a big deal.

Competition and the economy

In recent years, major companies, such as Spotify and Louis Vuitton, began partnering with esports competitions. In 2019, Louis Vuitton partnered with the League of Legends World Championship to create a trophy travel case, putting the competition in the ranks of similar Louis Vuitton partnerships like the FIFA World Cup and the Rugby World Cup.

In 2021, the League of Legends World Championship Final was watched by 73.86 million peak concurrent viewers. This is more viewership than every presidential inauguration in history, including the inauguration of President Joe Biden, which only reached 33.8 million viewers.

In 2022, the global esports market was valued at $1.38 billion and is expected to reach $1.87 billion by 2025, with Asia and North America representing the largest esports markets. 

This should give you an idea of how significant the esports industry is.

A pathway for STEM fields and education

Esports provides a pathway for STEM fields. Players need to analyze data, statistics and review strategies to succeed. Players also need to become proficient in computer hardware and software.

“On average, esports players score higher than other athletes on the math section of college admissions tests, and they tend to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, the so-called STEM tracks,” Billy LeVoir-Barry, then-chief technology officer of IBM Esports and Video Games, wrote in a 2020 Forbes article.

Esports is also becoming very influential in the tech industry. As a result, many colleges and universities, including our own UNC, offer scholarships to students willing to compete. Scholarships like these can help students pursue their passion in the technology field.

The Carolina Gaming Arena also opened in August 2021, housed on the ground level of Craige Residence Hall where students can compete and play video games together. One of the biggest partners of the arena is the UNC Esports club.

UNC isn't the only part of North Carolina that is getting more involved in Esports. League of Legends, the world’s most popular esports tournament, is hosting its League Championship Series spring finals this April at the PNC Arena in Raleigh.

Better cognitive development

So, should parents be worried about their child’s video gaming habits? Perhaps not.

While many parents fear that video games can harm their children’s health, a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that children who reported playing video games for three hours a day or more performed better in cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and memory. This study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow in the study. “This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation.”

The future of sports

The technology involved in video gaming is changing rapidly. With recent technological innovations in virtual reality and augmented reality, we can already catch a glimpse of what will likely be the next big step forward in gaming technologies.

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While the industry is still young, there is no sign that its growth will slow down any time soon. With esports viewership starting to challenge some of the world’s most established sports, traditional sports should watch out.  

The future of sports seems to be more immersive than ever before. Don’t be surprised if esports one day makes a debut in the Olympics. Esports is a big deal, paving the way for the future, and it’s here to stay.