What is e-sport?

The term e-sport was introduced in the late 1990s. For example, the term is in the press release of 13 December 1999 when the Online Gamers Association was founded. E-sport is a composition of the English words electronic and sport and stands for competitive playing – in the form of competitions or tournaments  of computer games.  A common misconception about e-sports is that sportsbook is part of e-sports. However it should be a form of tournament. This can be done both individually and in teams but not all forms of recreational gaming is seen as e-sports. There are roughly three categories of games to distinguish:

Strategy games (Real Time Strategy) are games where you as a player with a helicopter view manage an entire army. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) is a variant where you as a player only manage one character in one of two teams.

Ego-Shooters (First Person Shooter) are games where you as a player move in a virtual environment from the point of view of an avatar (only hands and weapon in view).

Sports and racing games are digital simulators of sports such as football and motor racing.

Fighting games include battles between two players or between a player and a computer.

Digital collection games are card games that collect and combine strategy.

Battle royale are multiplayer survival games in which a large number of players compete against each other to be the last survivor.

The roots of e-sport

We briefly discussed what e-sport is and what categories can be identified within it. However, where are the roots of e-sport? A brief historical reflection that goes back to the middle of the last century.

The first computer game where you can compete against each other that could be played in multiple places is Spacewar. Because a computer was as big as a classroom at the time, this game was only played at American universities. It wasn’t until 1971, when the microcomputer arrived, that Nolan Bushnell and Samuel ‘Ted’ Dabney built an arcade version of Spacewar called ‘Computer Space’. Commercially, this was not a success. In 1972, these two gentlemen founded the computer company Atari and this company launched the video game ‘Pong’ that year.

This table tennis game only became a great success when Atari released a version for home use in 1975. The launch of Pong brought several others on ideas. The slot machine company Taito came first with racing games (Astro Race 1973, Speed race 1974) in which two players can race against each other. In 1980 Autodesk launched the first virtual sports game ‘Virtual Racquetball’ where by placing sensors on a regular racket you could play a computerized racquetball game on the screen.

The “Intergalactic spacewar olympics” in 1972 is considered the first e-sports competition in history. This took place at Stanford University in San Francisco. The first large-scale e-sport tournament was organized by Atari in 1980: “Space Invaders Championship”. More than 10,000 participants participated from different places in the United States. In the aftermath of the 1980s, public gaming festivals were organized to start what we now refer to with e-sport. In 1983, the U.S. National Video Game Team toured America whose matches were televised. In the Netherlands, Atari went with a roadshow past festivals, amusement parks and campsites where players in tournament form could compete against each other. Nintendo also hosted events, for example in 1990 a world championship in the USA with the top prize being a golden Nintendo game cartridge.

Starting in 2010, e-sports have been on the rise because over the Internet various streaming media (ESPN, Yahoo!, Sport1, Kicker, Twich.tv, Mixer.com, Youtube) offer e-sports competitions to watch. The number of players, viewers, sponsors and events is increasing each year.

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