eSports viewership surpasses the Super Bowl

Luc Stringer | Banner | Aaron Kooistra, freshman engineering major, throws out and ability in " League of Legends" on his computer

“League of Legends,” a massive electronic sports (eSports) competition in video gaming, surpassed the Super Bowl’s viewership numbers in 2019, ushering in a new generation of competition.

According to numbers released by Riot Games, the company behind the game, the 2019 “League of Legends” World Championship Finals clocked in at more than 100 million unique viewers. CNBC reported 98 million viewers for the same year’s Super Bowl.

This historic event included a dazzling opening sponsored by Mastercard, featuring Cailin Russo and Chrissy Costanza’s song titled “Phoenix,” an opening performance reminiscent of a Super Bowl halftime. 

The show’s three-dimensional particle effects projected onto the stage made for an engaging and innovative visual performance, culminating in the reveal of the winner’s trophy.

With its groundbreaking viewership statistics, eSports could eventually become a competitor to traditional sporting events. After all, “League of Legends” has tripled its fanbase in the past six years. 

Even more compelling, more than half of the American population has tuned into an eSports game, according to Min Xiao’s research as an assistant professor at Wichita State University.

Luke Noon, freshman undeclared major at California Baptist University, said he was incredibly interested in eSports. 

Noon even said he watched popular internet personality and gamer Richard Tyler Blevins, known by his online alias “Ninja,” play shooting games and eSport Fortnite on Twitch.tv – an online broadcasting platform – in order to learn how to better his gaming skills.

“I think (eSports) will definitely be a competitor,” Noon said. “Even my mom plays video games. I told her recently, it literally could be a career— that’s how big it is becoming.”

Julie Goodman-Bowling, assistant professor and lead faculty for anthropology, said she believes eSports could grab a significant portion of the market. She also said she believes that eSports is growing because it is so easily accessible.

“The internet has opened up the audience,” Goodman-Bowling said.
“People who could not connect to others can now do so.”

Dr. Goodman-Bowling teaches a class on globalization as a part of the Cultural Anthropology major at CBU. Globalization plays a major role in eSports because of the international social connectedness that eSports facilitates. 

Although eSports is an exciting new industry, Goodman-Bowling said that it is important to maintain traditional practices.

“I think it is very important to think critically about what internet-based associations have to offer,” she said. “Exposure to the rest of the world may lead to discontent, on some levels. This has cultural and psychological implications that we should be cautious of — as with any new, rapid global change.” 

The change can even be felt on campus. Some students at CBU play “League of Legends” most days of the week. 

One of these students is Aaron Kooistra, freshman engineering major. Although the game is complex and can be difficult to understand at first, Kooistra had advice for new players.

“With enough patience, anybody could learn it,” Kooistra said. “You just have to dedicate some time to learning how to actually play the game.”

With such exponential growth, eSports could eventually change the way in which we watch high-level competition and consume media.

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