eSports is one of the more intriguing forms of competition today. Every year there are more and more of its supporters and enthusiasts. But where did it actually start? What path did eSports have to go through to land in the biggest arenas and have as many as 500 million people interested in it? If you want to find out, be sure to check out this article.
The Beginnings of eSports
The history of eSports begins in October 1972 at Stanford University, where 33-year-old writer Steward Brand decided to organize a tournament in the old-school game called Spacewar. Video games were just moving into the mainstream; a large portion of people didn’t even know what it was about at the time. Spacewar was a slightly more elaborate Pong — two players steered a spaceship, and the main task was to destroy the opponent’s ship. Brand was shocked at how well the event went. He wrote an article about it later, in which you could read that “Their (tournament participants’) brains and their fingers were fully engaged. There was an athletic exuberance to their joyous mutual slaying”. Can you imagine that those were words spoken after just one video game tournament?
The 1980s was the time when the first professional players of sorts had already emerged. This was due to the official competitions organized by Atari in Space Invaders, which consisted of speed-running or record-breaking rather than pure 1v1 competition. More and more people were interested in this type of competition worldwide, but there wasn’t much money in it yet… but a decade later, that has changed. In 1990, Nintendo organized the “Nintendo World Championships,” the first competition that at least a little resembled what we see today in large arenas. For winning the tournament, you could win a car, a TV, and ten thousand dollars. The competition took place in three games — Super Mario Bros, Tetris, and Rad Racer.
And since then, everything about video games competition has changed. In the 90s, games like DOOM, Starcraft, Quake, and Warcraft came out and had a streamlined competitive system to the point where you could easily host a LAN tournament with prizes. Internet cafés became a common meeting place for young people, and it’s where today’s esports stars (such as “Olofmeister” and “GeT_RiGhT”) started their professional careers. Video gaming has now gone mainstream, and the term “eSports” first appeared in 1997 with the Cyberathlete Professional League in Texas.
Esports has so many enthusiasts worldwide due to its easy accessibility through streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv (founded in 2011). You could compare it to a kind of television for gamers, but it is even more than that! In addition to just watching the most significant events in high quality, there’s access to a chat, where you can communicate with other eSports fans and professional players. Streaming platforms have become a place of additional earnings for players, so it is much easier for them to make money when, for example, there are no competitions in the season. A great example is a COVID-19 pandemic, where a large part of the players earned just by streaming ranking games. Can you imagine watching the training of your favorite athlete every day and still being able to ask him questions? That could be a breakthrough for traditional sports.
Famous eSports Players
Esports would never be what it is today without some specific individuals. We’d like to dedicate this part of the article to players who are currently an inspiration for those aspiring to become professional players. Meet today’s most famous players who are now contributing the most to writing the history of eSports.
League of Legends
Name: Lee Sang-hyeok
Birthdate: May 7, 1996 (age 25)
Country: South Korea
Faker is a true eSports legend. He is the only player (other than Bengi) to have won the League of Legends World Championship three times. In addition, this young Korean has won the Korean LCK (League of Legends Champion Korea) nine times. Many consider Faker to be one of the best eSports players of all time, and he is undoubtedly the most successful. We do not doubt that both his consistency and unique gameplay have inspired hundreds of thousands of young people to try their hand at eSports.
Name: Song Eu-jin
Birthdate: March 11, 1997 (age 24)
Country: South Korea
Anyone who follows the League of Legends eSports scene knows how much Rookie’s presence has changed it in recent years. No one can play the Mid-Laner role as he does. As soon as he joined Invictus Gaming in 2019, the team began to find success; his tournament career started with a victory in the LPL 2019 Regional Finals. Since he’s been more talked about, even casual players have changed their approach to playing the Mid-Laner position — that’s how much of an impact he had on the game.
Name: Jian Zi-Haeo
Birthdate: April 5, 1997 (age 24)
Chinese player Uzi is another eSports legend. He has performed in many international major tournaments, and until 2020 he served as ADC in the Royal Never Give Up team. Unfortunately, he struggled with health problems for many years. Today he has already retired, although many League of Legends fans (mainly Chinese) are hoping for his return, especially since there are reports of improvement in his health. Uzi also recently announced that he plays at least 8 ranked games a day, so who knows, maybe next year we’ll see him at the World Championships once again?
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Name: Andreas Højsleth
Birthdate: September 11, 1995 (age 25)
Xyp9x has been in the eSports scene for 10 years now and has earned nearly $2 million in the process. Out of 14 Major tournaments played, he has won 4, and in the rest, he finished at least on the podium. He is known for his effective clutch strategies and outsmarting his opponents. In addition to his fantastic shooting skills, it’s also worth considering the unique movement that helps him be so consistent in winning non-favorite 1vs5 type situations.
Name: Peter Rothmann Rasmussen
Birthdate: March 26, 1993 (age 28)
Dupreeh is another Danish CS:GO player, representing (like the aforementioned Xyp9x) the Astralis team. He has been active in the scene since 2012 but has been an absolute Counter-Strike star for the past 3 years. He has been named Best Player of the Tournament multiple times. Furthermore, he’s one of the best entry-fraggers (players who get their first kills) in the entire history of Counter-Strike; thanks to helping his team gain that early-round advantage every game, Astralis has been so successful in recent years.
Name: Nicolai Hvilshøj Reedtz
Birthdate: September 8, 1995 (age 25)
This player is perhaps the biggest star of the current Counter-Strike scene. And no wonder; there is no other person who can operate an AWP like that. Dev1ce has been on the scene since 2009, as he started his career in Counter-Strike: Source. Thanks to hard work on his game, he’s one of the few players who managed to stay on top for so long.
Name: Lasse Aukusti Urpalainen
Birthdate: March 3, 1995 (age 26)
MATUMBAMAN is the man who turned the entire Dota 2 eSports scene upside down in 2015. After just a year in the semi-pro scene, he got offers to play for one of the more prominent eSports organizations — Team Liquid. Since then, he has been playing regularly at top-tier international Dota 2 tournaments, currently under the Team Secret banner.
Name: Clement Ivanov
Birthdate: March 6, 1990 (age 31)
This man is a real Dota veteran. Puppey has been on the scene for almost 15 years, and he is the winner of the first Dota 2 World Championship (The International 2011). For many, he is the absolute best player in the world; he has made the finals at eSports events 11 times, 6 of which he has won. He started in NaVi, but now he’s part of Team Secret, with whom he managed to win the last season of DreamLeague.
Name: Ludwig Wåhlberg
Birthdate: August 5, 1997 (age 23)
Zai has been a minor for much of his career; he started playing tournaments as young as 14, and a year later, he managed to get a contract with Evil Geniuses and perform at The International 2014. In 2015, he joined Team Secret, with whom he won ESL One Frankfurt 2015. This player is an inspiration to kids around the world looking to try their hand at eSports.
Name: Hong Jae-hee
Birthdate: January 12, 1998 (age 23)
Country: South Korea
Gesture started his esports career in League of Legends, but today he is one of the most recognized Overwatch players. He plays basically only Tank heroes, but he does it so well that it’s enough. Since the very beginnings of Overwatch, he has been one of the most colorful characters in the community and is also living proof that there is no need to be afraid of change. Although his career in League of Legends was going quite well, he wanted something more and moved on to Overwatch, where he is now among the world’s best.
Name: Bang Seong-hyun
Birthdate: December 20, 1999 (age 21)
Country: South Korea
JJoNak is only 21 years old and is a global eSports star, mostly known for his unique support playstyle in Overwatch. This young Korean player has an exciting method of winning tournaments — he often picks off-meta support heroes and plays them super aggressively, which is very risky… but it works! Highlights from his actions are the most interesting to watch on the Overwatch tournament scene; he can really surprise the spectators.
Influential eSports Games
The three most popular titles that have contributed the most to the growth of eSports are Starcraft, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends.
These three particular titles were the most popular games between 2000 and 2010, a period when there was a lot of technological development, and more people had access to PCs. Because all of these games had a well-developed competitive system and access to them was relatively easy, the emergence of eSports was something absolutely natural. But who would have expected it to grow into something so big?
Presently, the Counter-Strike and League of Legends are well known to almost everyone, but Starcraft is not that big of a title these days. And that’s okay! It did its job, it contributed to the growth of eSports worldwide (especially in Asia), but it’s not what gamers are looking for anymore. On the other hand, Blizzard’s other two games, Hearthstone and Overwatch, are doing great in the eSports scene.
The Future of eSports
Today, almost 40 years after the first eSports tournament, it is estimated that there are around 500 million enthusiasts of this form of competition, mainly MOBA and FPS games. But what might it look like in another 40 years? We see a significant increase in interest in the Battle Royale games, mainly Fortnite and PUBG. There’s a chance that this trend will continue, as more and more game developers (even the big ones like Valve or EA) are choosing to produce games in this genre. Some even believe that Battle Royale will replace FPS (First-Person-Shooters) eventually, as the two are very similar to each other. Besides, it’s hard to predict anything. The success of battle royale or auto battler games happened overnight. The deciding factor on what eSports trends will be what people watch; as we mentioned earlier, it is streaming and the ease of access to platforms like Twitch.tv that has made eSports such a big deal today.
Moreover, it’s worth considering the growth of VR (Virtual Reality) technology and its potential in eSports. Can you imagine controlling games like Counter-Strike with body movements and physically moving around the map rather than using a keyboard and mouse? Well, it’s hard to predict the exact future of eSports, but we certainly expect a change in attitude in society and treat it as an actual form of competition/sport, not just playing video games.