Esports have undergone rapid development in recent years and have now reached the masses. While digital sports events attract millions of people to their screens, the number of professional athletes is increasing. Behind this development is an exciting story that began in the 1950s with the invention of the first video games and led to the constant professionalization of gaming. The following five events are among the most important milestones in the history of eSports.
The first eSports tournament
The first eSports tournament in history was held at Stanford University in 1972. A total of 24 players from different universities competed in an “intergalactic Olympiad” in the game Spacewar! against each other. The aim of the game was to defeat the opponents in the spaceship. The winner of the event received a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. The tournament was one of the results of hard-working high-tech specialists who, up until the early 1970s, were developing ever more compact computer systems. The new technical achievements now enabled the students for the first time to carry out the competitive idea in digital gaming.
The formation of the first professional team
Gaming in the 1980s was one of many ups and downs. While countless consoles flooded the market and new genres emerged, the console market experienced a serious collapse in 1983. Major companies like Atari went bankrupt. In the shadow of these events, the world’s first professional gamer team was founded in the USA during the crisis year. The US National Video Team consisted of Walter Day, Jim Riley and Steve Sanders as part of the Electronic Circus Tour. After the gaming tour failed, a new project was initiated and the team reassembled. This time, players took a bus tour across the US to challenge local players and introduce gaming to the general public.
The first World Cup
The first world championship for eSports took place in 1994 in a significant phase of upheaval in the gaming industry. In the 1990s, both computers and the Internet became mainstream. At the same time, many sectors of the gaming industry developed new strategies to adapt to technological advances. Traditional games were introduced to the Internet and now offered on specialized platforms such as the chess server or the digital casino , which are among the most important providers of iGaming today. In addition, massively multiplayer online games were created based on role-playing games and first-person shooters, which currently dominate the eSports industry. In this era of transformation, the first world championship in eSports was organized. The organizer of the event was Blockbuster-Video in cooperation with the gamePro magazine. Sonic the Hedgehog and Virtua Racing were played on the Super Nintendo & Sega Mega Drive.
The recognition of eSports as a professional sport
The rise of eSports as a new sports discipline was recognized by China back in 2003. In the early 90’s, competitive gaming was common in North America and Western Europe. China’s entry into the business came in the late 1990s, when the eSports sector was experiencing a significant upswing around the world. Renowned Chinese companies began organizing and sponsoring gaming competitions across the country, paving the way for the emergence of China’s first generation of professional gamers. The government also adopted a supportive stance. In 2003, the Ministry of Sports listed eSports as one of 99 officially recognized sports.
Esports at the Asian Games
Today, eSports are an integral part of leisure culture in Asia and, under China’s leadership, an important branch of the economy. While the official recognition of eSports as a sport in Europe is still up for debate, in 2018 Asia went a step further. Digital sport was first included in an Olympic program and featured as a demonstration sport at the Asian Games. Highly popular games such as League of Legends or Hearthstone were at the start. This decision by the Asian countries demonstrated to the world both the growing importance of eSports for professional sports and the progressiveness of the Asian continent in the eSports industry.
Important milestones in the history of eSports are the founding of the first tournament, the first professional team and the first world championship. These show how eSports slowly conquered the world in its early stages of development. Today, however, eSports is in an important period of recognition as an official sports discipline, initiated by China’s initiative in 2003 and followed by inclusion in the 2018 Asian Games. This career clearly shows that professional gaming still has a great future ahead of it.