With brightly colored uniforms and large cheering crowds, electronic sports (e-sports) are becoming similar to athletics. Though some worry about video game addiction, games are not inherently harmful and positive trends in e-sports outweigh the negatives.
For example, League of Legends (LoL) is an online game that has prospered into a thriving esports industry, complete with professional players, merchandise, and live spectator events. Professional LoL is wildly popular and profitable in South Korea, where prominent corporations sponsor teams. Merchandise ranges from clothing items to miniature figurines of characters. Last October, the LoL World Championship was held at the Staples Center in LA. Tickets sold out in an hour, and peak simultaneous online viewership was around 8.5 million.
Timothy Bian is a local fan of League of Legends who has played the game for three years and spent about $1,500 on gaming hardware.
“In League, nothing feels more satisfying than outthinking your opponent by predicting his moves or reacting in a way that he did not anticipate,” Bian said in an interview with JSR.
Last year, Bian founded South Pasadena High School’s eSports Club, a gathering of students who share a love for playing LoL.
“The motivation came from just how shocked I was to find everyone playing the game and talking about it,” Bian said. “I figured it really is time to have an official club for something with such a huge community.”
Thus, LoL does not merely serve gamers inside the computer screen. The LoL scene has created an environment where players have a chance to physically talk to fans, players, and staff members who share their passions.
Games may also have positive effects on cognition.
According to a 2013 study by the University of Iowa, games that require mental energy can mitigate the brain power decrease that comes from aging. A 2010 University of Rochester report says that players of action-based games make decisions 25 percent faster without sacrificing accuracy.
On the flip side, parents are justified in their worries for addiction to video games. The American Psychiatric Association lists video game addiction as an official disorder, and the condition has been blamed for several deaths and led to the creation of support groups.
To encourage moderation, South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality & Family has enacted a “shutdown” law banning gamers under the age of 16 from paying from midnight to 6 am. With the shutdown law, enacted in 2011, the Ministry guarantees every teenager at least six hours spent outside of the video game world.
As can be seen from brain research and examples of Bian and other League of Legends fans, video games and the esports culture are not inherently bad and may even be beneficial. The real issue is the lack of self-control within individual gamers.