Sports have come a long way since the first Olympiad thousands of years ago and so too has our definition evolved of what a sport is.
Midland resident Drew Beausoleil is the CEO and co-host of Inside The Game on Rogers TV, a weekly entertainment show that focuses on video game news and reviews.
“When you explain e-sports to a generation that hasn’t grown up with e-sports, they don’t quite understand the scope of what e-sports are,” says Beausoleil.
For comparison, e-sports is to the traditional definition of sports, as e-mail has become to physical mail. It is a virtual competition played through computers. In every other regard, however, e-sports are as valid as other modern day sports, according to Beausoleil.
“In a sense, these players are athletes,” he says. “Not in the typical sense that we all grew up knowing, as baseball and basketball.”
Whereas sharpshooters require twitch reflexes, split-second timing, and pinpoint accuracy, and race car drivers must manipulate dozens of incremental adjustments under mental and physical duress while enduring hours in a seated position without break, so does the e-sports player require that level of precision excellence.
“They sit down, they look at the other team and watch their videos,” Beausoleil explains. “They train for eight to 15 hours a day. They will sit and play the same game over and over.
“Especially when it comes to [first-person-shooter game Tom Clancy’s] Rainbow Six. What walls do you barricade? What do you break down? Which way is the best way to come around to flank the players? It’s all about building a team relationship and understanding the map, the game, how the functions and everything strategically works.”
Likewise, as some sports can be enjoyed in a sandlot or in a world-class stadium, so too can the e-sports’ player make the sponsorship-laden big leagues.
According to the website esportsearning.com, the #1 Canadian e-sports’ player is Artour Babaev (a.k.a. “Arteezy”) who has earned a total of $2.24 million playing the battle arena game Dota 2, and is ranked #22 in the world.
The top world player, Swedish player Johan Sundstein (a.k.a. “N0tail”) has earned $6.9 million also by playing Dota 2. The top-ranked Canadian woman is Sasha Hostyn (a.k.a. “Scarlett”) with lifetime earnings of over $350,000 in the real-time strategy game StarCraft II where she currently sits as the #336th player globally.
Beausoleil states that recently “there were 400-million viewers watching the world of e-sports. Video games are the biggest industry in the world,” adding that in 2018 e-sports “brought in just shy of a billion dollars.” (These figures are reflective of a 2019 Goldman Sachs report about the industry.)
“We’re trying to build that awareness in the Barrie area. We have an excellent partnership with [game publisher] Ubisoft that allows us to hold the rights to Rainbow Six Siege here in the north, so if you want to play Rainbow at a competitive level, we will be building that league here.”
Concerns regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic have altered sporting events worldwide, and e-sports is no exception to the precautions being taken.
“Right now with the coronavirus and the complications we’re experiencing there, it’s actually shutting down events. ESL just did their event, which typically has a live audience. They took out the live audience for the safety of others. Absolutely understandable.”
In a statement by ESL Pro League earlier this month, a decision was made to move the Season 11 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from the 6,500-seat capacity 1stBank Center in Denver, Colorado to a studio location in Europe without a live audience.
“But then when you go to [game-viewing website] Twitch, it was also their biggest viewership ever, peaking at the 1-million mark of viewers,” Beausoleil says.
Beausoleil’s own gaming roots started with 1982’s Baseball with his family on the household Colecovision console, with his current favourite game being 2004’s Metal Gear Solid 3.
For the locals who want to start an e-sports league, whether with a small group of friends or for the community at large, Beausoleil’s advice is solid.
“You have to have the passion and drive. If you’re more of a gamer then stay on the gaming side, but if you’re looking to build an event as well, then get some like-minded people together that see your vision, and then work with those people to build something that could be absolutely incredible.”