Ever since the release of “Pong” in 1972 for the Odyssey console, the spread of video games into pop culture has been exponential. Across the last few generations, a large percentage of people can claim to have grown up with a certain gaming franchise. Whether it be “The Legend of Zelda,” “Call of Duty,” or even “Minecraft,” by and large video game mascots have become just as recognizable as the iconic characters of old. With the growth of video game culture, video game commentary has grown into a niche vehicle of entertainment in its own right. From simple gameplay videos to competitive esports, the act of watching people play video games is now almost as popular as playing the game itself. And with that, it is easy to draw a connection between this growing platform and its predecessor in traditional sports.
In much the same way that people routinely gather to watch much-anticipated sporting events and highlights, much of the younger generation will routinely watch gameplay clips from creators they enjoy. And while this was initially met with a “Why not just play it yourself?” reaction, the same question can be posed to those who regularly watch traditional sports.
Asking around, a lot of our editors said that watching sporting events provided a bonding experience with friends and family. It was something they could rally over and participate in for a grand time. There is a sense of community that is created among sporting fans, something you immediately become privy to in this city especially, and the shared experience becomes the bedrock for the relations people form with each other. Last, but not least, is a simple passion for the sport you are watching and a genuine investment in how the match turns out.
It’s hard to deny that similar experiences can be found in gaming communities as well. From large conventions such as Pax and E3, or tournaments like EVO or OWL, and even smaller gatherings like the GAD on campus, the shared bonding experience found in traditional sports is easily spotted in video games.
Much like a highlight reel in a sporting event, watching people who are genuinely good at a video game putting their talent on display is often a spectacle to behold. This is especially true for competitive or esport games such as “Smash Bros.,” “Overwatch,” or “DotA 2.” People have their favorite players that they begin to follow, creating a micro-community of people who enjoy watching them compete in addition to watching the sport itself.
While it’s unlikely that video game content will ever fully replace traditional sports in terms of cultural relevance, they are certainly making an effort. For those who do not enjoy standard sporting events, video games offer a nice alternative. The capacity for shared experience is just as potent, the fanfare around both is often comparable. Who knows, maybe one day videogames will have their own Superbowl?