Face it, sport has gone into a nuclear winter of sorts.
Sure, we can sit in front of the telly with a fake grin plastered across our faces watching the superstars play a soulless, detached version of our favourite code.
It’s barely enough to scratch the sporting itch — but we want more.
Whether you warm the pine, run the water for or impart words of wisdom from the away end of your local club, you can hardly debate the dwindling presence of local sport is crushing community spirit left and right.
So, where can we turn?
I’ll give you a hint.
You’re less likely to pull a hammy while doing it (in comparison to your standard Saturday run-around), but far more inclined to have a wall full of controller-shaped holes at the end of a game.
This is sport all right, but not as Generation Xers or Baby Boomers know it.
Then to now
The first recorded eSports event was held at Stanford University in 1972, where the champion of a Spacewar skirmish took away a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone Magazine. Last year, the Fortnite World Cup tournament hosted a prize pool of $30.4 million. Talk about one for the workers’ union. eSports is fast becoming one of the most lucrative industries to get involved in, so much so even ESPN has channels designated to professional gaming. It’s initial popularity in Asia has crept into just about every corner of the world since the 2000s, and based on its current trajectory there’s only one way for eSports to go; up.
When Shepparton speedster Garry Jacobson was sidelined from the V8 Supercars series due to coronavirus, he still managed to tear around bends at breakneck speeds — but without the consequences of a career (or life) threatening crash. His virtual setup allowed him to compete in the Supercars All Stars E-Series championship, enabling Gaz to maintain his racing skill set on a verified, albeit modified, plane. And this kind of innovation is popping up everywhere. I’m not saying Ronnie O’Sullivan sinking 10,000 hours into mobile eight ball pool will give him an edge. Or that me playing Fifa day and night will make me a tactical mastermind on the soccer field (I busted that myth personally). But what I am saying is, due to the industry’s scale, in tandem with the constantly evolving tech sphere we live in, eSports will deliver a practical additive to other areas of the sporting realm in the near future.
Shift in focus
If I spent more than an hour on a console as a teenager, I’d cop an earful for wasting time from my folks. Rightly so; I sucked at most games and can admit now, if not then, there were more practical ways to apply myself. This is a reality most born before the turn of the millennium can relate to, and I have to agree with the notion gaming is often procrastination in its purest form. However, thanks to the introduction of regulated competitions, nowadays if virtual talent is around there are ways to expose it. Recently, the Greater Shepparton Cup eSports was launched, allowing die-hards and try-hards across the Goulburn Valley to throw their hat in the ring for gaming supremacy. As the first council-endorsed event of its calibre, this was a flag flown high for people who may not show much physical sporting prowess, but are different gravy with both hands on the gamepad. And that is just the tip of the iceberg for the virtually talented. The Australia eSports League hosts university, high school and club competitions, offering anyone a shot at the perks up for grabs to go along with the social element for all ages. It may not be $30 million, but the $10,000 prize pool is nothing to be scoffed at also.
Do it yourself
I found some pretty interesting methods to turn a buck before I was old enough to work legally. Whisking around local markets for fresh produce before selling it at camping grounds — at twice the price I may add — was always a winner. But for me, hosting gaming tournaments at my high school at $2 an entry was lengths ahead because of two reasons. Less effort, more reward. The nature of eSports usually means people are more inclined to come back harder if something doesn’t go their way. Which makes it totally universal — if you have opposable thumbs and some sort of competitive whim, you can game. In short, it’s the perfect alternative to sport. We crave a taste of competition, but we can’t fulfil it at the moment due to coronavirus restrictions. We thrive on changing room camaraderie, but again — no go there either. Both of these can be satiated virtually. The weekend cut and thrust can be substituted for an equally vibrant atmosphere, all at the press of the button.
If you have any tales to tell about sport — virtual or otherwise — feel free to fire them through to [email protected]