eSports has long been the target of derision and patronisation from the mainstream press, with many critics looking down on it as an activity for “basement dwellers” and “not a real sport”, presumably just before they watch somebody called “Big Dave” throw pointy things at a board at an International Darts Tournament.
Yet the world of professional gaming is another step closer to taking over the mainstream. This has already happened in South Korea and the rest of East Asia, where League of Legends and Starcraft warrant packed out stadium events complete with half-time shows and closing ceremonies. Now the UK is getting its own piece of the action in the form of Ginx, a new dedicated eSports channel set to start broadcasting on Thursday 23rd June.
Backed by Sky and ITV, it follows similar efforts to bring the tournaments from Twitch to television; earlier this year US network ESPN broadcast a Heroes of the Storm event live on its ESPN2 channel. They even have a dedicated section for eSports News.
Some commentators are less than thrilled. Ex-employee Colin Cowherd finally got the attention of gamers around the world when he stereotyped players as microwave meal eating nerds who still live in their parents’ basement:
In a later video, Cowherd complains that video games will have people lazing about on couches for hours on end, apparently not realising that he could have just described a destructive lifestyle centred around sitting on a couch watching football for hours on end instead.
In Russia and Italy eSports has just been legitimately recognised as a sport by the country’s governing bodies, and the International eSports Federation is busy building an “athlete’s commission” to get the activity recognised as an Olympic sport.
In the meantime there will be an international “eGames” contest hosted by each Olympic city. Prizes include medals and “national pride”, which seem a bit shit compared to the million dollar prizes professional players are used to competing for.