Your Mother Was Wrong! You should play more video games

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Three Million Dollars. That’s how much Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf walked away with after being crowned champion at the recently concluded Fortnite World Cup Solo Finals. Held in New York City, the event drew almost 15,000 people to New York’s Arthur Ashe tennis center. He’s not the only one though. The Fortnite World Cup also saw competitions for pairs, well-known Fortnite players from around the world, and also a competition to judge the best creative Fortnite player. And all of them walked away with cash prizes.

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Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf walked away $3 million richer after playing a video game (Image Credits: Philadeliphia Inquirer)

Considering this is all for just a game, it seems ridiculous to some. How do they afford it? But The Video Game industry was valued at approximately $135 billion in 2018.  If predictions are true, we’re looking at it hitting the $300 billion mark by the year 2025. It’s pretty obvious to most that there’s some seriously big money in video games, but what about eSports? 

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The video game industry is set to reach $180 Billion by 2021 and $300 Billion by 2025 (Image Credits: Newzoo)

Can you make a career out of playing video games in a country where the socially accepted professions are being a lawyer, doctor or engineer? This is where things get tricky. You would think that sitting in front of your computer all day just clicking random objects or shooting things would be a waste of time. But in reality, there’s a lot more going on. For starters, let’s look at actual eSports tournaments.

eSports Tournaments Are Money Makers

Take Dota 2 for example.  The International is the largest eSports tournament for Dota 2. In 2018, the prize pool was $25 Million. This was broken down and the final result was that the winning team walked away with $11 Million. That’s almost $2.2 Million each for a 5-member team. Similarly, for 2019, the Prize pool is currently at $31 Million and rising.

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Dota 2 has a current prize pool of $31 Million and counting (Image Credits: JoinDOTA)

League of Legends, another popular video game racked up a prize pool of $6.4 Million with the winning team walking away with $2.4 Million. PUBG, the massively popular battle royale game found on both PC and mobile kicked off its Mobile Cup Open 2019 tournament and is now geared up for the PC person, PUBG Nations Cup 2019. With a prize pool of $500,000, the winner walks away with $100,000. So as you can see, there’s some serious money to be made if you’re a competitive eSports athlete.

It’s not just about the money though. In terms of global viewership, eSports is fast gaining celebrity status. Tyle ‘Ninja’ Blevins, a popular Fortnite player earned roughly around $500,000 per month, just from playing Fortnite on Twitch. Granted, this was before he switched over to Microsoft Mixer

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Fortnite is the most streamed game on Twitch (Image Credits: Twitch Tracker)

Twitch, in case you didn’t already know, is a popular platform that allows gamers to broadcast their gameplay online. The League of Legends World Championships is perhaps the most-watched eSports game currently. If you’re looking at viewership, the League of Legends World (LoL) Championship 2018 had 99.6 million unique viewers compared to the 83 million people who tuned in to watch the finals of the ICC T20 World Cup 2016.

Taking Gaming locally

All this has been about international tournaments and the likes. But what about in Sri Lanka? Well, things have been moving at a steady pace here. A major part of this is due to the efforts put forth by GamerLK. We spoke about their beginnings a while ago. What started off as a simple forum in 2007 has now grown to be a lot more than just a place for gamers to gather online.

From the very first SLCG in 2008 with maybe around 100-200 participants, SLCG has now after 11 years of victories defeats and experiences, transformed into a haven for gamers. This was seen at the very first Play Expo.

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A snapshot of Play Expo 2017 which brought gamers and geeks to one giant location

It doesn’t just end there though. During our interview with Raveen Wijayatilake – Chief Executive Officer at InGame Entertainment Pvt Ltd, he shared that a goal of GamerLK is to get eSports recognized as an official sport in Sri Lanka. Raveen shared that while most of the preliminary discussions have been sorted, and the folks at GamerLK are making good progress, one can only expect so much when a Government such as ours is involved.

In addition, we can see a number of local video game developers also putting out video games, some so steeped in Sri Lankan tradition that they’re making a global statement about our presence. From Arimac with Kanchayuda and Unbroken, we also saw RAM Studios give us a sneak peek at Extraction Valley.

Touted as Sri Lanka’s 1st first-person/third-person shooter multiplayer title, the game is set to be launched on the 19th of August 2019. All these efforts are part of the goal of one day being a part of a global industry worth $135 Billion.

Making eSports an official Sport

Adding to that, a team of Sri Lankan eSports athletes also took part in the 2018 Asian Games. While not an official title for 2018, eSports would be made a medal event at the next Asian Games scheduled to be held in 2022. So that’s definitely a start and an important achievement.

The InGame eSports South Asia Cup was another example of Sri Lanka making a name for itself in the eSports industry. A 5-nation League of Legends championship with a prize-pool of LKR 1,000,000, the IGE South Asia Cup is organized in partnership with the Sri Lanka eSports Association. The recently concluded Inter-University eSports Championship organized by GamerLK should also be mentioned since it’s the only one that caters to a student body.

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The Inter-University eSports Championship 2019 was broadcast on TV in a special one-hour segment (Image Credits: GamerLK)

So why all this effort? Because there is an audience for gaming in Sri Lanka. For example, let’s look at GamerLK. They post video content to both Facebook and YouTube. The viewer count of Facebook may not be entirely accurate due to its autoplay feature, but it shows that there is indeed a viewer base looking for gaming related content to watch. YouTube, on the other hand, gives you a more accurate figure of exactly how many people have watched a video. 

All this is to prove that gaming can be a serious career. It can be as simple as improving your skills by watching a gameplay video or taking part and winning international tournaments. The latter also gives Sri Lanka global recognition as a formidable opponent. The culmination is that people can play video games competitively, and also have a life, so to speak.

So should I ditch everything and play video games?

We’ve spoken about the actions taken by local bodies such as GamerLK to foster a competitive gaming culture in Sri Lanka. These actions also help nurture budding gamers to learn the ropes of international tournaments and take part in global events. At the same time, international tournaments are offering bigger and better opportunities for everyone around the world to play video games competitively. If you’re in luck, you can gain sponsorship from well-known gaming brands and have all your finances taken care of.  All that needs to be done is to step up and sharpen one’s skills.

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With proper nurturing and coaching, gamers can improve their skills and take part in international tournaments (Image Credits: Business Wire)

So in short, what we aim to do is to show our readers that gaming is not a journey down the rabbit hole of which there is no escape. While Video Game Addiction has been made an official mental disorder by the World Health Organization, that’s not to say that playing games is bad for you. It just means that you should know your limits.

For those who think that video games are a waste of time and money, think of the last time you played Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja or any of the other millions of games available for your smartphone. Those are games too.

At the same time, for a budding gamer, it can be frustrating to hear their parents tell them that they want them to be an engineer/lawyer/doctor. They know, “the world is hard when you don’t have money. But super easy when you do. So find a job that you have a lot of money.” As such, professions like the ones mentioned above were the ones that offered attractive remunerations. 

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Contrary to popular belief, these are not the only 3 professions that are socially accepted. (Image Credits: YouTube)

However, now with the presence of GLK, many Sri Lankans are recognizing the value of the gaming industry and eSports as a business, and not just as a leisure activity. So at the end of the day, frustrating advice might not be valid in today’s current situation. If we can show people that eSports is indeed a profitable avenue, then we can slowly overcome the social hurdles that come with the simple statement of “gaming is a waste of time”.

As we mentioned, gaming is a multibillion-dollar industry. And if you don’t want to game every second of your life, no one said you only have to be a gamer. For example, we wrote about Hassy Vinod, who played Overwatch while being an aeronautical engineer. All it requires to succeed is determination, skill, and practice. Same as becoming an engineer/lawyer/doctor.

What are your thoughts on gaming and eSports? We would love to hear from you.

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