Ten years ago the idea of professional gaming was basically an anomaly. Athletes from traditional sports and gamers were considered near complete opposites. However, the lines between the two are becoming more and more blurred as we move into a more modern era.
Now I know you're probably thinking that there's no way video games could ever match the impact that sports have on todays society. While that may be true, eSports are dramatically on the rise, and with another decade of growth professional gaming could become one of the top entertainment sources.
Professional gaming is a bigger industry than you might think. According to the latest eSports market report, eSports entertained an impressive 385 million viewers while raking in $696 million in revenue — a number top executives expect to eclipse $1.4 million by 2020.
Games like "League of Legends," "Counterstrike" and "NBA 2k" are big players in the professional gaming scene with actual NBA teams establishing partnerships with their virtual gaming counterparts. While on the media side companies like ESPN and TBS have actually picked programming for major eSports tournaments.
The world was slow to accept the idea of eSports at first, but since then, business has been booming. Blue chip companies such as Coca-Cola and Gillette have started sponsoring players, teams and tournaments — events that can reach upwards of $20 million in prize money.
It is clear how much of a rising industry eSports is, however, the question remains should pro gamers be considered athletes. The idea seems a bit nonsensical at first, but a deeper dive into the world of eSports would likely prove most doubters wrong.
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, athlete is defined as "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina." By that definition, there is no doubt that professional gamers should be considered athletes.
You may still wonder how skilled or agile people who play video games for a living could really be. The facts may surprise you. Professional League of Legends, or League, players have a rigorous training regimen with some pros only getting an average of four hours of sleep per night after playing 12-14 hours every day.
For many of eSports' "heavy hitters," all of the constant gaming pays off as top gamers can bring sponsorships from various companies and earn six-figure salaries.
Just like traditional sports, eSports is not without injury concerns. The speed that is required of many pro gamers often results in hand and wrist injuries that sometimes require surgery — commonly resulting in early retirements for players. Constant gaming will obviously put strain on a players eyes, a problem they often have to overcome.
So what separates professional gamers from casual gamers? According to an NBC News report, most professional players for games like "StarCraft" can get up to five or six hundred APM, or actions per minute.
That is an impressive 10 actions every second. While it may not be dunking a basketball from the free throw line or smacking a baseball 500 feet, there is no doubt that to be on top of their game the best of the best in the world of eSports require top agility, reaction time and focus.
The notion that gamers could be considered athletes was once just a distant dream for geeks everywhere. However, it's 2017 and eSports are nearing global phenomenon status. As it becomes more of a norm, it isn't out of the question that in another five to ten years, professional gaming could be mentioned in the same breath as football or basketball.
As for eSports athletes, their intense training, impressive mental skills and ever-so-apparent injury risks no doubt qualify them as athletes. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but times are changing and in turn so will the perception of the modern-day athlete.