The “Ten Percent” series awarded at the International Emmy Awards

On November 6, the Chinese team of Edward Gaming won the world gaming championships League of Legends, in front of more than four million “web viewers”. A record for the discipline of competitive video games, which is seeing its popularity grow at top speed.

There is now one word for these video game tournaments: e-sport. And this practice is seeing its popularity grow exponentially. Four million spectators were therefore in front of a screen to watch the final of the world championships of League of Legends (LoL), arguably the most popular competitive video game around. The winning team also pocketed just under 440,000 Swiss francs for their victory.

Impressive numbers, especially compared to a decade ago. The first world championships of LoL in 2011, it is “only” 210,000 spectators for the final. It is therefore an increase of almost 2000% of the audience in ten years. How can we explain such an exponential craze?

Ivan Urendez, known by the nickname “Smuff”, is a former professional competitor, commentator and event organizer. He is now responsible for the e-sport division at Explorit in Yverdon:

Patrick Clastres, sports historian and professor at UNIL, agrees with technological advancement, but not only:

It has therefore been about ten years that e-sport is gaining momentum, in particular thanks to the growth of broadcasting platforms like Twitch, or the increasingly easy entry into this world. There are even tournaments where amateurs and professionals can compete. Quite unthinkable in other practices.

However, the practice of competitive virtual tournaments goes back further. Jason Delestre is a doctoral student at UNIL. He is doing his thesis in the field of e-sport

It is now a much larger audience that meets in front of these competitions, sometimes even in stadiums. If in Europe, the craze is slowly increasing, Asia has a considerable lead:

Sports, really?

With the incorporation in the name of the practice of the term sport, the question can legitimately arise: could these video game exploits be considered as sporting practices? Patrick Clastres, sports historian and professor at the University of Lausanne:

It would therefore be a selling point for this video game practice according to Patrick Clastres. For him, it is even a boon for this industry, often singled out:

Former professional competitor Ivan Urendez has no problem dissociating the two practices, as long as it is recognized that there are similarities:

Sports jargon was nevertheless taken up: coach, training, clashes, duels, etc. The spectators become supporters of a team, we come together to support these favorite players … Jason Delestre is a doctoral student at UNIL, he is doing his thesis on e-sport:

Video games at the Olympics?

In any case, this idea did not make everyone happy within the International Olympic Committee a few years ago:

It is indeed hard to imagine the IOC highlighting certain violent games, or those which are outside the Olympic spirit. Worse, it seems very difficult to imagine a unification of gaming practices on a global scale. Let’s take an example: football, which is governed globally by FIFA. In e-sport, there are slightly more federations.

Too many interlocutors, concerns about images, difficulties in negotiating with game developers who wish to keep control of their world … There is however a niche for the IOC according to Patrick Clastres, sports historian:

Los Angeles 2028 would be the right timing according to Patrick Clastres to see the first paired esports competitions appear.

And in Switzerland then? The size of the country is a brake on the rapid development experienced by some of our neighbors according to Ivan Urendez, Smuff by his nickname.

A situation which could evolve… The former professional of the controller underlines that the Swiss scene lives in spite of everything, in particular thanks to the fans, who organize amateur tournaments for fans, and which thus make it possible to keep alive, in spite of everything, a local scene .

Discover here our three “Large Formats” dedicated to the phenomenon of e-sport:

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