Riot Games Wants You To Think Of Esports As Real Sports

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor
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If any game company wants to legitimize esports in the mainstream, it's Riot Games. League of Legends is its moneymaker, its cash cow, but to take that next step requires the public at large to accept League as a legitimate sport -- and not just a "video game."

Enter the latest promotional video for the game. It starts with various media figures, both in and out of the sports world, such as Jimmy Kimmel, Whoopi Goldberg, and noted troll Colin Cowherd. It then transitions into many people defending esports, noting the passion and dedication of its players and fans, its attendance numbers ("71 million watched it last year ... by 2017, it'll be 145 million people watching it"), and a line about the government acknowledging professional video gamers as athletes.

It is, of course, marketing, using a few snippets of conversation to drive a narrative. The government recognizes esports athletes as athletes so that they can get visas -- there's no law that states you need to recognize e-athletes as athletes or anything like that.

As for the audience numbers, the "145 million viewers by 2017" total seems to come from this NewZoo report from 2014. It should be noted that this means 145 million enthusiasts across all esports. League of Legends may get a reasonable chunk of that, but there's also Hearthstone, Dota 2, Overwatch, CS:GO, StarCraft II, and plenty of others to include in that total. Meanwhile, soccer alone is estimated to have about 3.5 billion fans -- roughly half the planet -- and even the small-by-comparison NFL thinks it has 270-300 million fans worldwide.

Where the video might be more successful is pointing out that passion and dedication of fans, and trying to at least paint esports as something that can be enjoyed in the same way as regular sports. You can compare unfavorably, if you want, the actions of playing a video game versus, say, making a tackle or running really fast, but when you get down to it, the fans are all the same. We sit on our couches or in our chairs, watching intently and cheering or cursing our team. That's true whether you're watching the Dallas Cowboys or Dignitas.

Maybe that's the way to present esports and help it gain acceptance in the mainstream -- not through misleading and unfavorable numerical comparisons, or the games and their athletes, which are very different from physical sports and their players ("If you don't break a sweat, I don't consider it a sport," says Jenny McCarthy, who also thinks vaccines are dangerous). Instead, focus on the fans and the highs and lows of competition, which are the same for whatever league -- "Champions" or "of Legends" -- you're talking about.

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (20)

IMFAKE 5 years ago
If there's no rich guy making a billion $$$ off this, then it's not a sport.
|
No rigged events, not a sport.
|
No cheaters, not a sport.
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No fake publicity stunts, not a sport.

questionyourthoughts 5 years ago
well then should we call every game a sport then?

View 1 reply
lol 5 years ago
Real athletes poop in a sock.

ZED.pt 5 years ago
This is an old man discussion.
Younger generations have grown with e-Sports,and no matter how many people say its not a sport they will still see it as a sport.
And many like me,in my 40's that pushed e-sports into the spotlight see it as a sport too.

And then theres the stereotype that ppl that play computer games are all sedentary and out of shape,but if we look at the average e-sports competitive player,you see that is not true.

View 1 reply
detestt 5 years ago
Never.

Curst 5 years ago
IMO two biggest problems with esports is that:
1) gamers are generally viewed as worthless humans who basically need to "get a life", that goes double for pro gamers and makes it hard to promote a positive image of both players and games they play;
2) esports don't promote healthy lifestyle, they don't promote any kind of lifestyle actually (contrary to what some may believe), which doesn't help with the first problem at all.
-
I don't think these issues can't be overcome by anyone's conscious effort, no matter how much money they'd be willing to invest. The only way to go is to push the "but it's entertaining to watch, profitable, and not morally questionable" narrative.

Kevin Flemming 5 years ago
Comparing E-Sports to "proper" sports is just silly. They are nothing alike. Majority of gamers can pick up a game and be good at it, whereas not everybody remotely fit can run a marathon or pole vault.
.
Sure, there are lots of people watching but thinking that it holds the same prestige as physical sports is ridiculous.

View 2 replies
SqueezyTime 5 years ago
Just like all sports, esports exist to entertain the masses and to move large amounts of money, so I don't see why it wouldn't be considered "real sports," I will say, however, that athleticism pertains specifically to physical fitness, so those who compete in esports are in no way 'athletes'. In fact, you could even say that esports heavily encourage an unhealthy, sedentary and is likely to actually result in those who compete in esports seriously—and lack the time/willpower to dedicate to physical fitness—to live relatively short lives.

View 2 replies
rickshaw 5 years ago
Off Topic
Maybe to get better response here as a lot of people do not like to typing it seems.
Place a tick list
Like
Yay, no, Your right, your wrong, no way, Really, Amazing, & Ok,
or anything similar to those points this way reactions to your posts would be quicker by way of viewers ticking box's
Come to think of it that may be just as hard for them. lol

Back On topic:
I don't see why not
Gaming is a very demanding, enduring, exhausting, brain swabbing, human achievement sport.

Yohoho 5 years ago
Football, basketball and many other currently recognized sports were just games in the past as well. To spend some time and have fun. Some people saw an opportunity in it and turned it in a show for many reasons. Same can be done to E-Sports as well, and it probably will be done.

View 1 reply
YOHO MOHO 5 years ago
I decide what i think thank you very much.


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