Is Major League Gaming a sport?


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Lucas Koprowski, Sports Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “sport” as “An activity involving physical exertion in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” That same dictionary defines the word “e-sport” as “A multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.” Over the past couple of years, e-sports have been becoming increasingly popular. Although gaming competitions have been happening since 1990, with Nintendo hosting many major competitions throughout the 90’s, e-sports have been gaining traction as a reputable competition.


An organization called Major League Gaming, or MLG, has been hosting and organizing professional gaming events since 2002, but has recently been gaining traction with their large library of competitive games. The organization has hosted many tournaments with different video games. Most popular examples of games would be League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offense or CSGO, and Rocket League. League of Legends is an online multiplayer real-time strategy game, CSGO is a first person shooter and Rocket League is a multiplayer vehicular soccer game. The only one on this list that isn’t being hosted by MLG, due to another organization called “Riot Games” already having the rights for the game, is League of Legends.


The level of competition can vary from smaller tournaments, like Game Battles, where they provide small prizes for lower level casual players, to very big tournaments and championships with large prizes. It also depends on the game, and the variance of different game engines. If you compare different types of first person shooters to each other, people start to notice the vast differences. For example, CSGO players have to have a twitch-like response to outdo their competition, while Call of Duty has set strategies for each map and the best players have to rely on their memorization skills of map flow, rather than being the fastest shot.


MLG, on top of creating a competitive environment for many levels of professional players to strive in, creates salaries through prize winnings and sponsors for players and teams. This isn’t on the level of the recent Super Bowl Champion and skittle loving Marshawn Lynch, but many players can make a good six-figure salary. Some tournaments pay the winner anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000, so just by winning one of these, as an individual player, or winning a few tournaments as a group can lead to a top level salary.


Professional Athletes, on the other hand, have much larger salaries. The NBA has an average salary of $5.15 million, the MLB has an average of $3.2 million, and $2.4 million in the NHL. Although no professional gamer can match the salary of professional athletes, many don’t care because they are astonished that they are being paid six figures to play a game. Then again, the most popular gaming channel on YouTube, PewDiePie, was reported making $7.5 million in 2014, by the Swedish newspaper Expressen. In correlation with this, players with large followings, like OpTiC Gaming players and people with a decent sized YouTube fan base can make a living primarily from gaming for a significant amount of time.


E-sports have been taking large strides towards being even more professional. Last year, Amazon, the major online retailer, bought the most popular game broadcasting platform, Twitch, for reportedly $1 billion. As well, the major sporting broadcasting channel ESPN has broadcasted major league tournaments a few times over the past couple of years on their lower level channels, like ESPN 2.


Even in our own community there are people who love to play these games and strive to be competitive. College of DuPage freshman Nicholas Bellock has played first person shooters competitively for the past couple of years, and tries to squeeze in time for his gaming in while in college


”I did competitive Team Fortress 2 for about two years, and I’ve recently gotten into CSGO competitively,” said Bellock. “I’ve been also trying to get into Dota 2, but it has a really sharp learning curve, so I’m trying to get into the game by understanding all of the basic components, in order to be efficient. It’s very different from my first person shooter background.”


This proves that professional gaming has a large enough following to be put on air time and be expected to have good viewer ratings. E-sports have rivalries and fan bases, just like any other sport, and thousands of people tune in to their favorite gaming scene every week to watch, just like any other sport. Although it is obvious that most people would not call a professional gamer an “athlete,” their competition is undoubtedly a sport.