By Pamela Wong and Fred Wu
The Meta, a gaming and esports center in St. James, held a small live showing of the Overwatch World Cup 2019 game this past weekend. The event was streamed online reaching 146, 317 viewers during the peak times of the matches. Team USA took first place winning against Team South Korea and China this Sunday eliminating South Korea 3-1 in the semifinals and going on to become champions against China in the Final match 3-0.
Esports stands for electronic sports that uses video games to compete in a professional large scale tournament for a sum of money. The global esports revenues are up to 1.1 billion dollars in 2019. Some esports games include League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter esports game made and published by Blizzard Entertainment. The point of the game is for players to work as a team to secure and defend points on a map and escort a payload across a map within a time limit. Teams comprising of some of the best players represent their countries and play in the World Cup for prize money as high as one million dollars.
“Esports culture is going to be one of the most rapidly growing sectors of entertainment in our future,” James Cohen, assistant professor of new media at Molloy College, said. “It’s one of the things that is going to define how we look at gaming at sports simultaneously. Not only do esports championships and games matter, as do the scale of them… It’s going to be a culturally significant jump forward as we look as sports and gaming interact.”
Players represent their countries to fight for the winning spot in the competition. South Korea made third place in the World Cup but won first place for the past three years in the previous World Cup events.
“It’s more of a nationalistic thing for pride, obviously you have players that represent different teams that are based off of where they are from,” Christopher Fitzpatrick, one of the three owners of The Meta, said. “[It’s] not like how the FIFA world cup is. It’s a lot of fun and it takes place during BlizzCon.
BlizzCon is an annual convention held in Anaheim, California where Blizzard Entertainment, the makers of the game promote their franchises like Overwatch and World of Warcraft.
“Overwatch League in particular has had super impressive number based off viewership count and financial backing,” Fitzpatrick said.
Sterling.VC, owner of the New York Mets, owns New York Excelsior, an Overwatch League Team based in New York City.
“Overwatch has been changing the esports industry because of how big it’s gotten to the point where they constantly have more and more tournaments,” Andrew Valderrama, a Newfield Highschool freshman playing Overwatch while watching the World Cup at the Meta, said. “It’s really awesome to see how esports is going mainstream.”
The rise of esports also inspired many teenagers to become professional players, especially when they see star players in Team USA win the World Championship at 19 years old. However, life as a professional player and making this a legitimate job is much harder than expected. Jay “sinatrra” Won, the key player on Team USA, talked on the Jimmy Fallon Show about how he convinced his parents to let him become a professional gamer.
“It was very hard, I waited until Christmas actually,” Sinatrra mentioned during the interview, “I wanted [my parents] to be more willing, you know, the holidays. Because it was a huge step I would have to move across [the world].”
Though the growth of esports is huge, there are still some parents refusing to let their children engage in such a profession.
“I spoke with my father about that two years ago,” Kevin Dai, an Overwatch fan who was considering being a esports player, said. “A team manager talked to my dad, but my father refused the manager immediately and told me that I should pursue a college education.”
Despite its popularity, the transition from broadcasting traditional sports to esports wasn’t always so well-received.
“[Video games] just seemed obvious that eventually it would get into sports,” Ryan Larkin, another owner of The Meta, said. “And because you can broadcast it, and you can make money off of broadcasting it, then there would be money in it, then a league, prizes, money and players and a natural market that comes out of that.”
Overwatch came out in 2016 and took only a year since its debut to hold esports tournaments. League of Legends is one of the first to popularize esports competitions in 2011. The difference between esports games and other video games is the interactivity.
During the summer of 2018, DisneyXD and ESPN started to televise Overwatch League major games reaching a greater viewership.
“Overwatch is marketed towards teenagers and DisneyXD is catered to young teenagers,” Stacey Morales, a student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who kept up with the World Cup, said. “Overwatch is a dying game— it’s been out since 2016. Overwatch League and Overwatch World Cup are still very heavily followed and with the announcement of Overwatch 2, I think they really can make a huge presence in the esports scene and make esports huge in general.”