Does locale matter in gaming anymore? The answer should realistically be “no” — the age of widespread connectivity means that some kid in China could put the whoopin on an adult in the EU without ever meeting one another face to face. Friends play games without borders every single day, giving rise to beauty in connectivity around the globe.
Nevertheless, in the same way that Toronto loves their Raptors and Denver loves their Broncos, competitive gaming via eSports is starting to draw regional interest, though it is different. National and globally regional teams tend to take most of the spotlight, but local tournaments and College eSports leagues are producing interest in their own spheres of geographic influence.
The question is, will eSports and connection to geographic area grow despite international proliferation in connectivity?
I think it will. Here’s why:
People crave connection with their geography. Our surroundings inform us and help animate us, on a cultural and personal level. Unfortunately, our world is moving away from the physical and into the metaverse, or the reality that exists in cyberspace. Put another way, culturally, we are moving toward a mode of living that is tele- everything.
Gaming isn’t the only arena where we’re seeing people choose the cyberscape over the real world. According to research, 50 percent of U.S. workers do some type of virtual work, while up to 90 percent of workers in the United States would like to work remotely at least part-time. While this has been great for accessibility and connectivity, there’s still something about the real world that tends to pull us back to physical presence and geographic location.
Take Super League, a platform that organizes players by city to compete in League of Legends, Minecraft, Clash Royale, and Fortnite championship tournaments. So far, teams exist in 16 different cities from Seattle to Miami. While it’s hard to tell what type of support these teams are getting, it’s not hard to imagine that more locales will adopt teams as existing teams grow alongside the popularity of eSports.
Collegiate eSports is another reason that cities can rally around a geocentric gaming culture and physical arenas. I recently went to a seminar where Dr. Chris Haskell of BSU spoke about the rise of collegiate eSports and the opportunities that are coming to fruition surrounding gaming. He mentioned that BSU is currently building one of the largest physical eSports arenas in the country, and that they are vying to be the premiere school for eSports scholarships and competition. He then invited everybody to watch the BSU League of Legends team play a couple of blocks away.
As people identify with competitive gaming as it is specific to their region and culture, they will have reason to identify with local teams as their own representatives in the gaming arena. This is how sentimentality toward geocentric gaming cultures will grow, even if gamers are not directly involved in the sport itself.
Nevertheless, gaming is becoming something that more and more people are becoming directly involved in. During Dr. Haskell’s lecture, he showed footage of an interview he did with Blizzard’s Adam and Tyler Rosen, and something that Tyler said in the interview stuck out to me and stuck with me.
I can’t quote him directly, but he essentially told Dr. Haskell that gaming is becoming so universal, that kids are learning to play games on iPads before they can read or even walk. Housewives and executives are playing Candy Crush and Clash of Clans to kill time. More and more, gaming is becoming woven into the fabric of our cultural existence. Sooner, rather than later, questions like “Do you play games?” or “Are you a gamer?” will be as inane as “Do you listen to music?” or “Do you watch movies?”
Who doesn’t listen to music or watch movies? Eventually, the same will be said of video games.
Gaming is not just becoming universal for entertainment value, but it’s becoming more respected for its potential in learning and science. Gamification is used in offices and organizations around the world to propel employees to their fullest potential, and games and technology are even being used to help treat addiction, according to Wake Forest University’s online resources.
The more we embrace gaming in all of its facets, the more we will come to accept them as part of our everyday lives, just like any other sport. As such, it’ll be less weird to see intramural gaming pop up at the YMCA or in internet cafes in cities around the world. The growth of eSports might just accelerate that notion.
Another thing that Dr. Haskell said during his seminar caught my attention. He mentioned that eSports is in its “gold-rush phase,” and that people are simply scrambling to get in at the ground level. As eSports grow, so too will will eSports arenas, and, in turn, the desire for amateurs to play at the team level, much like intramural baseball or basketball teams.
Haskell fielded a question about VR, and the rise of V-Sports, which is still in its infancy, but he mentioned that as VR becomes more prevalent, so too will their counterpart sports. By 2020, the VR market will be worth $30 billion alone, and $150 billion when combined with AR. The wheels are already in motion for the integration of this technology into our lives, and the implications of mainstream adoption are still unknown.
Nevertheless, with interest in eSports rising via collegiate sports and a change in the overall relationship between popular zeitgeist and gaming, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll see more eSports arenas and locally-organized eSports teams. It’s only a matter of time and dedication — two things gamers thrive on.