By Chaz Wilson
A new type of professional “athlete” has emerged, as young people increasingly choose computers and controllers over traditional balls and bats.
Playing video games professionally is growing in popularity, with tournaments all over the world. Successful gamers can earn millions, with many earning their fortune and retiring before the age of 30.
Nathan Walker, president of the Texas Tech eSports Association, said e-sports should not be dismissed.
“E-sports are growing so fast that it needs to be taken seriously,” Walker said. “Just because e-sports weren’t around 20 years ago doesn’t mean they won’t be here in 100 years.”
Even though some people may not understand e-sports, Walker said, the pastime deserves respect for its ability to bring people together.
“E-sport’s community is what drives it,” Walker said. “Video games are for people to enjoy. They aren’t taking anything away from anyone.”
John Velez, an assistant professor at Texas Tech who studies the effects of video games, said e-sports are much like regular sports and can even have some of the same benefits.
“Cooperating in video games can have positive benefits,” Velez said. “Players come out more social and less aggressive towards people they interact with after playing video games.”
Critics have claimed that the skills required to play video games are not as intuitive as those needed for traditional sports, Velez said, but there is much they are not taking into account.
“Invisible traits such as reaction time, spatial awareness and problem-solving are what make a good video game athlete,” Velez said. “This is different from a traditional athlete that has visible traits such as height, weight and strength.”
Clay Vass, a captain of one of Texas Tech’s e-sport teams, said one similarity he sees with traditional sports is e-sports’ competitive spirit.
“Much like regular sports, rivalries have been made at all level of e-sports,” Vass said. “The competitiveness that exists in e-sports is the same as something found in football or baseball.”
The bonds are also similar to those found on a traditional sports team. E-sport players practice together, talk often and create lasting friendships, like any group of teammates would.
Walker said he anticipates the time when e-sports will become mainstream.
“I think e-sports will become accepted in my lifetime,” Walker said. “I look forward to the day when I can walk into any bar and see other people enjoying televised e-sports.”