Much like the world of professional athletics, esports are now becoming a phenomenon not just for the gamers themselves anymore. Viewers, gamblers, and fanboys themselves who may never have played a single online game they are becoming more and more drawn to the ultra-competitive world of high-stakes competitive gaming. And now, the mainstream media has taken notice. TBS has recognized this mania, and has decided to take it even further with the creation of ELeague.
ELeague will be a televised competitive gaming event, broadcast once a week, following tournaments and players for a massive prize pool. The goal is to make esports into something comparable to watching the NFL or the NBA, where viewers can follow competitors and the progress of the tournament over time, becoming attached and invested in the progression of the competition, and growing familiar with their favorite competitors and teams. The world of esports is already that big, it just hasn’t been recognized in that way until now. A televised, professional-style event like this is just what the esports community needs.
Esports have been around for quite some time now. Blizzcon was hosting StarCraft tournaments long before esports grew into what it is today. Since the integration of live streaming platforms like Twitch, it has grown into something much more accessible and widespread. Naturally, the next step would be to broadcast it on television.
ELeague will be a ten-week event and one screening will be released each week. It will be split up into seasons, as is the norm for established sports leagues, which is exactly what Turner hopes to turn esports into. The first season will feature a ten-week tournament of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Again, in the style of any other professional sports event, the show will provide backgrounds on players, including stats. There will be live broadcasts of the early stages of the tournament, qualifier rounds, and will ultimately lead up to the global championship, which holds a $1.2 million prize pool. You may think this sounds like a massive amount of money, and you’d be right. However, past esports tournaments have topped this multiple times, so while Turner aims to have a prize pool comparable to other esports tournaments, they are not actually going that overboard. They seem to be trying their best to create an accurate televised representation of what esports already is.
Esports are already insanely huge. In a Vice documentary about the gaming phenomenon, statistics suggest that esports is actually the world’s biggest sport. League of Legends has 67 million monthly subscriptions, or more than there are people in France. That is really not something to be overlooked. If you are among the top best 100 players, or even the top 1000, that is wildly impressive. Some may dismiss those players as people “just playing video games,” but that is actually a great accomplishment. It is something that you should be able to be proud of, and something you should be congratulated for. Turner wants to show that it is really no different than any other sport. To some, video games seem useless and a waste of time, but plenty of people think that of professional football, so why should esports be singled out? If that many people are participating, and it is being taken this seriously by so many, then surely it deserves a place among other professional sports. Esports has reached the point where professional gamers are being given sports scholarships, and competing in massive sports arenas. If the question is whether or not esports should be considered a professional sport, well, it already is. Turner is just nudging it further into the spotlight.
Competitive gaming should not be something that is looked down upon. Gamers should not be confined to their dark rooms, with their skill, dedication, and glory only known among their friends and rivals. If you were in the top 0.001% of a globally played competitive sport, which the finalists of these tournaments are, you should be able to bask in that glory. You should be looked up to, and people should know your name. It is an accomplishment. You have reached the top. It gives other gamers pride, and people to look up to. It really is no different from other professional sports.
The first (and likely not the last) season of ELeague debuts on May 24, at 10 p.m. EDT, and will air once a week for ten weeks. The second “season” of ELeague will feature a different game, possibly Dota 2 or League of Legends. Turner hopes that this new sort of branding will turn esports into a household name, like the NFL. Families may watch football together on Sundays, and also curl up and watch ELeague on Friday nights right after Conan. It will certainly put competitive gaming in a new light. Gamers everywhere will appreciate that a whole new audience of people will soon have a chance to get excited about esports.