by: Jure P.
To look at the world of professional gaming, we need to look at what defines a professional gamer. According to dictionary.com to be professional at something means following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain. Well this is exactly what is happening in South Korea.
Blizzard Entertainment holds an annual Starcraft tournament where the best of the best come to compete for an $87,000 first price. South Korean fans watch these professional tournaments that are broadcast on cable television and the players are considered to be celebrities. Teams flush with sponsorship money and pay their stars salaries on top of their prize money. One of the top players, Lee Yoon-Yeol is rumored to earn around $200,000 a year. With these big tournaments happening all over Asia, is it possible that the same will happen in the western world.
First, lets take a look at why these tournaments are so popular in South Korea. Three explanations are traditionally given. First, South Korea is a wired nation. They have super-fast broadband speeds that Americans and Europeans can only dream of are standard, and have been available for years. That makes it easy to play games online with friends, and to watch matches broadcast online. Second, Starcraft coincided with the rise of “PC Bangs”, outfits that are somewhat similar to Internet cafes, where gamers go to socialize and play video games together. Third, Seoul is very densely populated, which makes it harder to enjoy traditional sports that require wide-open spaces.
Professional gaming tournaments have appeared in the West, but they have tended to fade out quickly. Part of the problem is that trying to explain what competitive gaming is to most people particularly older ones and they have no clue what you are talking about. If they do, you’ll most likely get the response of “who wants to watch someone else play video games”. But yet, our society watches professional poker on TV, so what is the difference. I believe that it all comes down to advertising. Televised poker became popular because of all the advertising and promoting that took place. Millions of people play online video games. So why don’t game manufacturers advertise to promote professional gaming. Well in the US there seems to be a stigma that revolves around video games. With technology progressing so quickly, I think this stigma will fade and professional gaming will make a strong impact on the western world.