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Growing popularity of esports

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By Raghav Mehta

Esports or electronic sports is something that wasn’t even heard of until a few years ago. However, in the current scenario, a majority of students are considering it as a career option.

In a country like India, most people view playing video games as a sheer waste of time and money. But in the last couple of years and especially due to the pandemic – we have witnessed a shift. The entire world underwent a transformation – the office going majority moved to online working from home. Amusement parks and recreational activities for kids were shut down and they had no choice but to make use of their time at home.

It was during this time that the online gaming community witnessed a sharp rise in its total users. There was a sudden surge in demand for video games as it satisfied these children’s dopamine rush of the day.

As per a research report, the Swedish-based block game, Minecraft saw 131 million monthly active users during 2020. In the same year, new games emerged from nowhere and instantly gained worldwide attention. Valorant, a shooter game, saw 15 million downloads in one year.

Simultaneously, one of the most popular video game streaming platforms, Twitch, grew its user base rapidly. The live-streaming site managed to clock 17 billion hours last year which is 83% higher than 2019’s nine billion. This projected that people trapped at home were constantly exploring new options for escapism. The count of online gamers in India also grew by 31% in 2019 and reached around 365 million. In fact, it’s expected to reach the 440 million mark soon.

From the Indian Premier League (IPL) to FIFA, television was a primary source of streaming sports at home. This also led to the popularity of Esports, which is now being made available to the masses with the help of online streaming services/platforms. It has evolved from a niche market to one of the major sources of entertainment for the audience.

Today, Esports players are not just playing games for their own recreational purposes but are also following a career path. This includes giving the game attention and treating it as a primary source of income. Services like Twitch, Mixer, YouTube gaming also provide super chats and donations by which viewers can interact with the streamer.

Live streamers can also earn via brand sponsorships.  For example, the world renowned gamer Ninja, aka Tyler Blevins had a sponsorship with the energy drink company Red Bull. He would earn by advertising for the company on his live streams. However, some players choose not to live stream but directly upload videos on YouTube. How they earn is by allowing ads to play before their videos. This enables them to get the ad revenue. Another way of earning by gaming is through selling merchandise. Players can make their own branded merchandise such as clothing, computer accessories, water bottles, mugs, gaming controllers, etc. To take the example of the famous YouTuber PewDiePie, he makes a variety of merchandise ranging from hoodies to his own gaming chairs.

But with all these benefits at the comfort of one’s home, Esports still has some cons. A major one being health issues. High exposure to screens can cause permanent damage to the eyes and sometimes, an average streaming time lasts for about 4-5 hours. Some individuals might also experience CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome), a temporary digital eye strain which causes dryness in the eyes.

When one stares at a computer screen, their eyes have to focus and refocus all the time. One reacts to images changing constantly and moving, shifting focus, sending new images to the brain. All this work tires the eye muscles which in turn causes the Computer Vision Syndrome.

In terms of gaming, one has to pay close attention to the computer screen and have faster reflexes. As a result, most gamers might have to take supplements and/or wear corrective glasses for their eyes. Further, they sit for long durations which can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes if one does not have a proper workout schedule.

Some may argue that most office jobs require doing the same. So, is Esports really just a trend? No, I believe, it is a rapidly growing and adapting industry that provides good career options to a lot of people. It surely has its risks and financial uncertainties but it is here to stay for a long time.

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