Business, Sports

Video Games are Sports, Or At Least They Will Be

Video games are moving up the social ladder. The University of Utah recently introduced a program that will one day place 35 gamers on scholarship. One possible avenue for the increased popularity of video games, gambling. NCC Reporter Nicholas McGowan has the story.

By Nicholas McGowan SYRACUSE N.Y. (NCC News)–Choose any Sunday during the NFL season and you will most likely hear conversations involving fantasy football, the standings, the players or  anything that would help you make an educated decision as to who will win the game.  The purpose of this, to a degree, is gambling.

Now not all forms of sports betting are legal, but that does not stop the public from making the Super Bowl and March Madness are some of the most profitable events for Vegas bookmakers.  Two of the more common ideals to bet on are the spread and the total, or the over/under as some might call it.  The spread refers to the number of points a team needs to win or lose by depending where you place your wager and the total refers to the amount of points scored in a contest.  The question remains, what does all of this have to do with video games?

Syracuse University Sport Law Professor John Wolohan says that it’s just a matter of time before betting is mainstream.

“So we are still maybe a year or two away from this, but by 18-19 I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more legalized gambling in the US,” Wolohan explained.  Wolohan also cited that a key legal battle involving the State of New Jersey and their gambling laws will have an impact on the timeline.

But imagine not betting on the spread of a Packers-Bears football game, but instead on two ESports teams, essentially betting on professional video game players.  Betting on their statistics, whether or not their team wins and so on.  In any one video game there are endless possibilities and outcomes.  To highlight just how far sports betting has gone, starting this year you can bet on the NFL draft.

Video games and the professionals who play them are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s culture.  Turner, who owns the cable channel TBS consistently features professional video games as part of their Friday night programming.  Any interest in watching professionals play Street Fighter, simply just tune in.  ESPN has caught some flack for showcasing ESports but the “E” in ESPN does stand for entertainment.  FIFA 17, a heavily popular soccer video game has led to Youtuber AA9skillz to gain just under 1.5 million subscribers.  In 2014 Amazon bought Twitch for 970 million.  Twitch is platform for gamers to stream their live content to subscribers, essentially people watch other people play video games.

The University of Utah has also announced plans to place 35 gamers on scholarship over the course of the next few years.  They are the first university in a “Power 5″ conference to do so yet other schools such as the University of California-Irvine has their own ESports Arena.  Even the Big Ten Network broadcasts collegiate gaming.

Syracuse University student and member of the SU Game Club, Conor Hakan, points out the growth of these sports in countries like South Korea and China.

“I think the debate about ESports versus real sports is a fascinating conversation going on,” Hakan stated.  While he sees both sides of the argument, it’s hard to argue that both are not popular.

Hakan’s advice to future ESports bettors, choose wisely.

“I think part of the excitement right now in ESports is that the games that are being competitively played are so competitive in their nature that they allow for the kind of seesaw effect in where you don’t know who will win,” Hakan warned.