Picture this: a sports arena packed to capacity and draped in red and blue, and hundreds of thousands of people screaming in exhilaration at the prospect of seeing their idols in action. Placards dot the stands, and the painted faces of fans look excitedly towards the large screen in the center for the action to start. The peppy beats of music shake the ground beneath the audience's feet and match those of their hearts. They can't wait to begin.
These are not the scenes from a cricket world cup or a football final.
This is what the 2015 League of Legends World Championship in Berlin (a.k.a Disneyland for those whose weapons of choice are a Nova and an MP7) looked like.
The prize? A million freaking dollars.
Long story short, gaming is no longer a hobby. It’s the real deal, and it’s happening all around you.
At the start of this century, the number of gaming tournaments in the world was in double digits. In just over fifteen years, e-sports has evolved into a cult phenomenon with almost 2000 tournaments being organized all across the world. In 2013, 32 million people watched the world championship for the online multiplayer game League of Legends, four times more than the number of viewers for "The Winds of Winter," Game of Thrones' most watched episode.
Thus, it's safe to say that gaming is the new sexy.
For a long time, gamers were relegated to the back of the class and branded as the nerds, the 'uncool' members of the squad. The stereotypes were frequent and quite frankly, offensive: a chips-and-fries addicted guy living his life on the internet, a girl who couldn't find any friends to save her life; people with pale, pasty skin and tired eyes. Oh, and glasses.
Now, with the tremendous rise in the culture of gaming and e-sports, the 'social pariahs' have one epic response:
Don't believe me? Just take a look at all the dough the players are rolling in!
This will actually blow your mind. Take a wild guess at the amount that Team Newbee, the Chinese gaming goliaths, bagged for winning the Valve International. Will you believe me if I told you that each of five members of the team received north of a million dollars for winning the tournament? In fact, life is stellar for many of the top players in the world, who receive seven-figure salaries and are sponsored by world class brands.
In short, being the best at a game may actually get you a hell of a lot money.
Oh, and BTW, gaming is a legitimate career option now.
Next time you find yourself confused about potential career choices, check out the sports department of Chung-Ang University in South Korea that recognizes gamers as e-sport athletes. An increasing number of gamers are being awarded athletic scholarships for their skills and receiving visas on the same grounds that professional athletes do. For fans of sports games like FIFA, it gets even better, as many football clubs have now started hiring FIFA aficionados to represent them in gaming tournaments and encourage interactions with fans. Yes, there may eventually be a football jersey with your name on it!
Gamers, we're way past the days when telling your mother you wanted to be a professional Counter-Strike or DOTA player made her roll her eyes.
But wait, what about us desi-gamers? Where does India stand?
Till now, gaming has been considered merely a pastime for children in India. In fact, with the lack of mass-scale tournaments and prize money has made it difficult for the culture to take off. Well, guess what? 2016 is looking pretty good so far in changing that. Not only are gamers hailed as Gods in their respective communities for their excellent skills, but people all across the country are aspiring to be them.
This year, Mountain Dew Game Fuel is bringing us Dew Arena, a massive gaming championship that some are calling the biggest in the country.
With a prize pool worth Rs. 10 Lakhs and the lucrative chance to be the face of Dew's Game Fuel, Dew Arena will see India's hardcore gamers battle it out at games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2 and FIFA on three platforms: PC, Xbox live and Android. An on-ground version of the tournament will also be organized soon. That's not all, though; weekly winners of the Android game will be awarded a Microsoft XBox One. To get details about the tournament, click here.