It’s the early 80’s – the golden age of arcade games.
Teens and tweens flock to the arcades, in perms and parachute pants, toting fistfuls of coins – ready to show their skills at Space Invaders, Ms Pac Man, Defender and Donkey Kong.
Then it all ended. Abruptly. The mullets and heavy mascara lasted a few more years.
Consoles from the likes of Atari and Nintendo and early home computers then emerged that were capable of delivering a rudimentary ‘arcade quality’ experience, using the family TV. Gamers went home, and gaming became a solitary experience.
But not for long. Led first by PC shooters like Quake, gamers could connect to each other via local area networks (LAN), more commonly used in offices.
LAN parties sprang up to accommodate enthusiasts keen to test their skills against others – leading to the first competitions for gamers.
Picture credit: ESL / Adela Sznajder
With the advent of PlayStation, home gaming moved mainstream.
Skip to the new millennium. Huge advances in technology and improved connectivity connect millions to live competitors globally through mediums like xBox Live and Twitch streaming.
Then the real game-changers – the advent of esports and the smartphone – all brought gaming back into the mainstream public social scene.
But this time gamers enter packed arenas cheered by thousands rather than a few of their mates, backed by generous sponsors and all going for prizes worth millions, on a par with any other traditional professional sport.
“Comparing sport to esports – it all looks the same. Everyone is ecstatic and the atmosphere is buzzing, everyone backing a team,” says mental performance coach, Edgar Chekera.
“I think that esports is advancing a lot quicker than even traditional sports – especially on the mental skills side of it.
“[The industry] is hiring a lot of sports psychologists. It’s not just for the professionals, but for the general public too. Everyone wants to improve themselves, mentally, physically and tactically in the games.”
Esports is the fastest growing competitive sport – with more than 2.5 billion gamers across the world projected to spend $152.1 billion on games in 2019, according to gaming intelligence specialists Newzoo.
While there is a decided difference between serious esports and casual gamers, mobile is the largest segment, claiming nearly half of the global games market in 2019 at $68.5 billion.
And the trend shows no sign of decline.
According to a report by NPD, 63% of children aged 2-17 play games on mobile devices, while there was a 20% drop in computer gaming in the space of two years.
Some predict that mobile gaming will dominate in the future as younger generations are born into touch screen technology.
Demographics are shifting – 46% of gamers are women. This is largely due to the ubiquity of smartphones and casual gaming, but women are also increasingly rising in the esports scene.
Lara Schofield a “huge gamer” says, “What I love about gaming is community. I have met a lot of friends.”
She says she was treated quite badly at times, and called names when she first started playing Dota (Defense of the Ancients, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) mod for Warcraft III) – but that with the rise of women in esports she is treated as an equal, especially when she wins.
Perceptions are also shifting as gaming becomes more mainstream.
“I think for most gamers – at first their parents don’t support them,” says professional gamer Yap Jian Wei.
“They think you shouldn’t spend time on gaming, and you should spend time on studies – but I think parents are now more open and willing to accept gaming as a career.”
On the road
In May, pro-gamers Ricardo Pacheco and Toni Jorda used the world’s first 5G cross-boarder data connection to game while travelling from Portugal to Spain.
“I’ve been with the guys from Vodafone Spain, testing the new 5G connection from Tui (Spain) to Valença (Portugal),” says Mr Jorda. The truth is that everything went great and I really want to try the 5G on the mobile, the speeds are a beast!”
Had a lot of fun today playing with 5G of @VodafonePT and @vodafone_es. Good connection and did not find any latency. I can’t wait to get 5G on my phone! @GiantsGaming @redbullPOR pic.twitter.com/wUMUR6M0h3
— Ricardo Pacheco (@foxgringoCS) May 22, 2019
Mobile is a great democratiser, and with faster speeds and better connectivity, everyone can be a gamer.
To complement ESL’s 2019 main arena competition, the organisation has partnered with Vodafone to create the world’s first 5G mobile competition.
Swedish YouTuber and Twitch streamer, Teo, was on the Vodafone stand at ESL Birmingham, “I think that 5G will do a lot for mobile gaming, definitely.”
Vodafone 5G ESL Mobile Open is an international tournament comprised of a series of online-only qualifiers (Pubg), alongside ESL event qualifiers (Asphalt) at ESL One Birmingham in the UK, ESL One Cologne and Gamescom in Germany.
The grand finals for both games will be broadcast live on Vodafone’s 5G network at Milan Games Week on 28-29 September.
Online qualifiers can be played on any compatible Android or iOS mobile device, and on any internet connection.
It’s open to players from Albania, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
Pro League esports caster, Marius ‘Verdipwnz’ Lauer, who is hosting the Vodafone competition booth, encouraged everyone to get involved.
“People are trying more to being competitive instead of being casual,” he says.
“They are coming to ESL and the Vodafone event qualifiers, to step into smaller tournaments and get their foot into professional tournaments.” “There are so many things that have changed in just the past few years, we look at the Vodafone competition stand, we look at the (ESL) arena – enough said!”
Join the competition at the events https://pro.eslgaming.com/mobileopen/home/asphalt/ or online where everyone’s a gamer at https://pro.eslgaming.com/
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