The Pro-Gaming Phenomenon

29 06 2008


Text by Victor Tang

Packed cyber-cafes with young teenagers filled in it. A typical Friday night away from the clubbing scenes during the weekends and you will find many intensely focused on the monitors of the computers. Look closer and you’ll notice some will express disappointment, while some others on the opposite end wear wide smirks on their faces. This is a typical scene on a weekend-night, and also the phenomenon known, as Pro-Gaming.

The packed environment full of spectators and players alike, full of emotions and competent tactical play, shouting and fast-hand speed clicking, just epitomes what the euphoria about gaming is all about. Playing games has never been this serious, and the stakes never that high. The reason is, professional gaming has taken the world by storm.

The amount of interest in this industry has been growing steadily for the past 2 decades, coinciding with the boom of personal computers. Gamers armed with their keyboard and mouse now make a living by doing what they do best and passionate about, which is playing games and with major sponsors like Intel, Samsung, NVIDIA and grand tournaments like the Electronic Sports World Cup and World Cyber Games, the pioneering of a bright star begins.

Things begin with the desire to play the game. Just like how people started playing the Nintendo and PlayStation, is just the same as how people start with playing games on the PC. The elements of competition, tactical plays, nerve control and desire to excel have made gaming such a popular craze among the youngster today. Usually, it starts with casual gaming among friends. Then this escalates to a point of being the best among your peers. Alliances are formed, and star-players are born. Hence, the competitiveness trait, which encourages major tournaments to be started in support of this growing spectator sport, which is now fondly known as e-Sports.

The more well known personalities throughout the history of gaming are FaT4L1ty, known for his super-human agility in the game of Quake, where you take down your opponent in a shoot-out match via a 1v1 competition. He has his own brand of hardware with his brand stick onto it, and massive distribution in the United States. The other more well-known figure across the world, is none other than, `Slayers_BoxeR` aka Lim Yo-Hwan, a professional Korean StarCraft player who earns an annual salary of USD 100,000 a year by being a pro-gamer. He is a professional gaming icon for many youths across the world and anyone who has ever played StarCraft online, will have heard of his name before. His legendary in-game tactical plays and fast-clicking mouse speed skills has made him the undisputed No.1 StarCraft player in the world.

The path that a typical gamer take to turn pro is certainly paved with heartbreak and disappointments They start out playing games for fun, and gradually the desire to be better strikes the person. Gradually, the intense focus becomes apparent, via playing more competitive games and the players join major tournaments. They will then gain popularity via their plays and creates a strong fanbase which will then allow them to be sponsored because of their attention grabbing value.

The sponsors are major industry players like Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Samsung, NVIDIA and Steel Series. These are the companies which are making pro-gaming a viable career for the youth to walk upon and keep their passion for gaming alive. E-Sports is becoming such an integral part of the youth community in today’s world and is gaining popularity fast. Just like how Formula One, Beach Volleyball or Football for that matter, it will hold no value unless there are spectators watching it for entertainment.

Fan Clubs and Internet based sites are opened and many fans leave their comments there as a show of support for the pro-gamers and this creates the value which the sponsor pays for. Lim Yo-Hwan had a fan-club of 600,000 fans, 70% of it was females, which even made cosmetics company sponsor him and put their make-up before they go on stage. At the same time he ascended to the throne, which he is most popularly known as,
The Emperor of Terran. For those not in the know, you can Wikipedia his real name, and there is a page dedicated to him as you will find the full details there.

The local Malaysian scene is showing good signs of progress because of the inclusion of the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) and also the World Cyber Games (WCG). The games such as Counter-Strike (CS) and Defense of the Ancients, which is the popular games which gamers tend to immense themselves in, has reflected great promise.

The famed Team Hybrid has been dominating the CS scene for sometime now, and also the renowned Team KingSurf for the game of DotA. These shows that Malaysians also have the necessary talents and skills required for the sport and doesn’t necessarily buckle under the impression that only teams from the United States and Korea are the only ones who are skilled.

The local teams are mostly sponsored by the cyber-cafes that they are frequent and this also draws the crowd in for the owners as this is good win-win relationship between player and business. In certain cases, they even become part-owners of the business as an avenue to fuel their passion for pro-gaming, in case, along the way, they don’t make the cut. These also creates entrepreneurs on the side of things, which can only help a nation progress by having more players in the industry and continue fostering for the younger generations who might make it when the timing and boom of pro-gaming reaches a mature level.

The direction that e-Sports is moving towards is a staggering one. With the trend of technological advancement and application software that so many youths are making part of their lives now, the pro-gaming career seems a very viable option in the future. The support from major sponsors around the world, the growing competition of international tournaments and the proliferation of the Internet has taken the level of gaming to another era. The time has come for the world to take notice.

The vision of having pro-gaming as a spectator sport is not a wishful thinking, but rather only a matter of time.




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