Special Feature

Photo from the point of view of a person holding an Xbox controller

As society entered quarantine, the world of sports abruptly came to a halt, leaving many people desperate to find means of entertainment and social engagement. Physical sports were left scrambling while the gaming industry kept thriving and planned to continue business as usual.

The esports community was forced to cancel all major in-person events, but unlike their counterparts, the ability to game is not affected by social distance requirements. Before the big screens and sold out arenas, gamers were spending hours on end playing the latest game in their basement. In a way, the profession of gaming was shifting back to the grassroots beginnings that every gamer is familiar with.

When the gaming community rapidly gained a foothold on people worldwide, sports leagues were quick to notice an opportunity to stay involved. Both the National Basketball Association (NBA), with NBA 2K, and Major League Baseball (MLB), with MLB The Show, televised gaming tournaments of their respective games. The tournaments were played by some of the games’ best athletes and raised money for humanitarian organizations like the World Health Organization. NASCAR and F1 were quick to follow suit as professional drivers participated in televised virtual races.

The increase of televised events on channels such as ESPN is believed to have led to a substantial increase in recreational gaming. Games like Call of Duty Warzone were launched and saw immediate success with 15 million players in the first three days and over 50 million players after the first month. Titles like Madden, FIFA and NBA 2K also reported increases in engagement, while streaming platforms such as Twitch have reported a surge in viewership. Regardless of what some think, gaming continues to provide a positive way to stay connected with friends during these trying times.

As the semester continues, be sure to check out the free esports leagues and tournaments available to join at asirecreation.org/intramurals.

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