HANA ALHADDAD AND JAKE SANTA MARIA
Glory beckons for Australian gamers as eSports is set to join the upcoming Asian games, presenting a new opportunity for Australian sporting gold.
eSports is the world of professional gaming in which players and teams compete in front of thousands of spectators in various different video games.
It was recently added as a medal event for the Asian games in 2022, with it set to be showcased at the 2018 games. And Australia is looking to become a full member in the 2022 games.
Brad Coombs (pictured) co-owns Escape Portal in Cannington, a newly opened gaming lounge that provides a space to play competitive games and compete in local tournaments.
“Sponsors are coming on board to put up prize pools and pay these players to be able to compete, just like you would if you’re a [professional] basketball player,” Mr Coombs said.
He said a mainstream event such as the Asian Games would further validate eSports as an actual sport rather than just a hobby.
He sees a medal event as a chance for eSports to be taken seriously by those who do not understand the game.
“Everything takes time, until it starts to pick up,” he said.
“There’s so many plusses for it that it has to be considered as sport.
“The game changed, but the fundamental principles behind any sport is all the same … it’s competitive and now there’s prizes involved.”
Sydney based Darren Kwan, executive producer for the Australian eSports League, said acceptance at the Asian Games was an affirmation of eSports’ growing standing.
Mr Kwan said a national team would be chosen with co-operation with the Australian Olympic Committee.
“The national team is typically selected by the Australian eSports Association through open trials and qualification process,” he said.
“With Olympic titled events this further involves the Australian Olympic Committee and would be a collaboration between the two entities.”
Dan Scheckenbach, General Manager for Team Immunity, a prominent Australian eSports team, said streaming services had helped push growth.
“Within the last three to four years we have seen a huge increase in the general public’s interest in the viewing of large competitions such as the Crown International and Intel Extreme Masters,” Mr Scheckenbach said.
“This may be [due] to the better availability to tournaments through vectors such as Twitch.tv … as well as production quality increases through companies such as ESL.
“These platforms have made watching games and tournaments as enjoyable as watching any conventional sporting event.”
Mr Kwan was optimistic about Australia’s chances of taking home a medal from the games.
“Our chances of medalling would be high,” he said.
“Last year our national team placed overall ninth at the only eSports event where nations are represented, the eighth Esports World Championship.”
Mr Scheckenbach was more reserved in his opinion.
“Players from other regions are able to earn a full-time salary from gaming, whereas Australian players cannot afford to play their specific game full-time,” he said.
“If we could provide the same level of financial security and development opportunities as other regions then there is a good chance Australia could take home a medal, if not gold.”
However there are some people who, despite the rapid growth of eSports, question whether it is in fact a sport.
Murdoch University Professor Brendon Scott said that, in sport, strength and conditioning play a big part.
Dr Scott said that while he did not know eSports too well, he saw it as akin to chess as a test of mental ability, not skill or strength.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a sport, Professor Scott said.
“It’s a cognitive task or activity.
“Some people consider it a sport because of its competitive nature.”
Mr Coombs disagreed, saying eSports required teamwork and hard hours of practice.
“Just like any sport, you have to predict what the other person’s going to do, counteract them, but you have to have fast reflexes to react to certain situations,” he said.
“You’re just doing something that not many people understand, but they’re starting to.”
The 2018 Asian games are scheduled to begin on August 18 in Indonesia.