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Leveling up: The rise of PH esports

The emerging trend of esports has taken the world of sports by storm. Once considered only as a mere pastime, video games have reached the competitive edge of tournaments together with capturing the clamor and enthusiasm of avid followers. The rising popularity of esports events are paving the way for teams to be sponsored and players to be recognized worldwide. Breaking barriers in the traditional sports realm, it is an industry that is undoubtedly developing at an unprecedented rate.

Many arguments against esports, such as the lack of physicality or the perceived casualness of competition, have tested its climb both into mainstream media and acceptance as a “sport”. However, such debates are gradually being silenced by the success of esports competitors and tournaments. The LaSallian seeks the in-depth insights of Rd Rogacion, Kenneth Alog, and Kurt Cristobal, who have all had a lengthy involvement in the local esports scene. 

Game-changers 

The challenging side of gaming has always been present for everyone—whether it be alone or with your friends, competitiveness in video games has been present since the dawn particularly of multiplayer games. However, it is only recently that this already-established competitive spirit has lent itself toward advancing the great rise of esports, further prompted by internet services gradually becoming more accessible to allow such content to reach a wider scope of people.

Cristobal, who plays League of Legends for the Rumble Royale team, credits the viewers and the fans of esports for its rapid growth. “For the longest time, people thought that playing video games professionally is a joke and something not feasible, but over the years, it has become a mode of entertainment like traditional sports [with] organizations and sponsors now being involved,” he elaborates. 

For Rogacion—who is the founder and CEO of Overdrive Creative Studios, a design company that works closely with esports brands—he pinpoints the “streaming boom back in 2017” and “influx of new audiences” as major catalysts for the growth of the esports brand, attracting “bigger and newer sponsors to finally notice esports for what it is—a spectacle.”



Esports as a competition 

Going back to the earlier years of the previous decade, playing video games was not a widely-accepted, full-fledged career for most people. But over the past few years, there has been a growth of acceptance for the esports community. Esports’ rise into becoming a world-renowned form of competition has been a swift shift, and today, it is now recognized as one of the most exciting and unique sports around the world.

“At first, [esports] was not immediately accepted due to the mentality where people thought that it is something you cannot do for a living,” Cristobal explains. It was only a matter of proving the naysayers wrong, though, that esports could blossom into something big, with Cristobal citing esports’ inclusion in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as further proof of its recognition as a competitive sport. 

Alog, a Computer Science major from Ateneo de Manila University who is also a member of the Esports, describes how professional esports has a unique focal point centered on mental fortitude, not just athleticism or technical skill. “Playing competitively shows how playing games could be mentally taxing, and [this] mental strain can make or break what makes a good player. [Esports] may not be super physical like traditional sports; however, it is its own kind of competition,” he points out. 

Furthermore, esports has contributed greatly toward Alog’s personal development, as he attests, “Esports helped me become the person I am today—learning how to communicate with people and being dedicated to working toward being better at something.”

Esports is not only a competition that professional players like Cristobal participate in, but they can also serve as a massive help in day-to-day practicalities, especially when there is sufficient investment in the scene. “The growth of esports helped me as a player since I got to play professionally. It enables me to go full-time [into this career] as I can make a living out of playing games,” he shares.

Make or break

Despite the esports scene being fairly new to the competitive landscape, its popularity is on the upswing and may quickly be on par with the major leagues. Still ironing the kinks out, the esports community has come a long way from what it used to be. 

Wave by wave, more video games are establishing their respective competitive realms, and esports as a whole is gaining recognition and being introduced to global contests like the SEA games and Olympics. Truly, it is not far from the spotlight given to traditional sports like basketball and football. 

This progress can prove relentless as certain esports tournaments for games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2 have remained in action through online events even with lockdown measures across the globe. In fact, at the ongoing Razer SEA-Invitational 2020 Qualifiers, a PUBG Mobile competition, the Philippines has its fair share of representatives through the teams of Iconic PH, Neon Esports, and Bren Esports. 

Making pro-gaming as one’s career was unheard of back in the day, but the prospect of doing so has now become more stable and viable. Aspiring gamers may not be belittled anymore as schools like the University of California-Irvine and Miami University in the United States have already begun offering degrees in esports, meanwhile locally, the Lyceum of the Philippines University has been considering launching an esports program and look on track to becoming the first institution to offer such a degree in the country. 

For Alog, as long as there is an audience for gaming events, esports will continue to thrive in the competitive spectrum. “It’s great to know people watch esports like any spectator sport, and that’s why esports exists—because there is an audience for it,” he affirms.

Going head to head while seeking pleasure and glory is the whole concept of esports; the fiery spirit infused is why gaming continues to click and make an astounding name for itself in the world of sports.

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