eSports introduces a new generation of athletes

Felipe Cabrera

ISU students are going to be seeing a new kind of athlete now, the gamer. ESports, electronic sports, regards professional video gamers as athletes and brings a new meaning to the term athlete for Iowa State’s eSports club.

ESports are nothing new, seeing its first organized league, Major League Gaming, back in 2002. With the help of YouTube and other websites streaming games to millions of viewers around the world, eSports has ushered in a new era of sports and entertainment.

Pro gamers are their athletes, and the Internet is their stadium. According an article from, 18 million people over one weekend in May tuned in for the “League of Legends” All Star Tournament. The 2012 League of Legends World Championship reached the computer screens of 8.28 million viewers worldwide.

Even with eSports rapid growth in popularity, the question still lingers: Do eSports stand shoulder to shoulder with traditional sports like Football or Baseball? The gamers of Iowa State sound off in different notes.

“I don’t understand how the argument can be made,” said Cameron Ruess, a geology major. “Video games aren’t athletic. You’re just sitting on couch and mashing buttons. Real athletes have to train hard and keep their bodies in shape.”

Engineering major Zach Parsons said: “for something to be considered a sport, you need to be active. If something doesn’t physically strain you in some way, it’s not a sport. In order for it to be a sport you must be active and on the same field of play, not over the Internet.”

It’s a common argument against eSports; video games are lazy, or video games are not physically active so gaming can never be a sport. Some students disagree with this notion.

“ESports are definitely a real sport,” said Luke McDonald, computer engineering major. “You are still a team competing against other teams via some sort of medium for enjoyment as well as competition. I don’t think it is very physically demanding, obviously, but neither is NASCAR. Yes, skills are required to drive a car or play League of Legends, but neither are physically demanding and NASCAR is considered a sport.”

Maybe the U.S. government can be the deciding factor in this argument. Due to the efforts of Riot Games eSports manager Nick Allen, the United States now grants pro League of Legends players visas as professional athletes to allow them to continue working and to join teams in the U.S. Now League of Legend pros are given the same title as other athletes in traditional sports.

“Professional gamers do the same things required of professional athletes,” said J Remington Sisk, president of the Game Renegades club at Iowa State, and captain of the Game Renegades League of Legends team under Iowa State’s banner in the Ivy League against other universities. “eSports requires devotion, a strict daily practice regiment, coaches, and a management team, just like any team in the NFL.”

Just as football players practice on the field, pro gamers need to abide to a practice regimen that can take up to eight hours a day. It is not just fun and games; practices include studying your own matches and your opponent’s matches. Learning from your own mistakes and learning who you are up against is an integral part of formulating new strategies and tactics.  

The top professional gamers bring home the big money. Just like any other team or athlete, pro gamers are offered generous sponsorships from companies who follow their performances online. Top tier teams give their players a salary, like professional football players, as recognition of their skill and as incentive to give it their all during cash prize tournaments. According to, Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel has cashed in $454,544.98 over 35 tournaments for games ranging from Quake 3 Arena to Unreal Tournament 2003. 

“As technology gets bigger and is more implemented in our lives, we’ll even see eSports play a part in the Olympics,” Sisk said. “Right now, there’s a movement trying to get Star Craft 2 and League of Legends into the 2020 Olympics.”

As the digital world becomes more entangled with reality, a future where professional gamers will be spoken in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods seems likely and faster approaching with every year. Mastering the nuances of a video game would not only will be a hobby, it will be a profession.