Few things stir up a sense of nostalgia like the world of video gaming. So many of us have fond memories of sitting in our friends’ bedrooms playing the latest console releases and earning bragging rights that we have never let them forget about.
Whether it was Super Smash Bros, FIFA or Goldeneye, there was simply nothing like the feeling of coming out on top. However, did it ever cross your mind that the pastime could become a billion-dollar sports industry?
Unstoppable Rise Of eSports
Video gaming has undoubtedly come a long way in the past couple of decades, with eSports, in particular, reaching a whole new level of interest and profile in recent years.
If research by market intelligence organisation Newzoo is to be believed, 2019 is set to be a genuine milestone for the industry, with the market expected to exceed the billion dollar revenue mark for the first time.
Put simply, it is a money-making phenomenon and its fan numbers are on the rise too.
According to figures from Activate, an estimated 250 million people from across the world now watch eSports events and it is anticipated that by 2020 around 70 million people will watch the final of a single event in the industry.
The attention it is attracting has never been greater. Huge stars have invested in the area with Drake becoming a co-owner of 100 Thieves and even names as unlikely as Jennifer Lopez also dipping their toes into the area.
A further major development is how traditional sports teams have been getting in on the act across recent years, with major football sides like Manchester City and West Ham signing up their own stars to compete in FIFA-based events.
An offshoot eSports betting scene has also emerged around the industry, with a number of betting sites now featuring odds on major tournaments alongside more traditional sports betting fare like football, golf and rugby.
eSports: Stakes Are High
Amid all of this hype and excitement, another aspect of eSports that has grown in size are the stakes.
Gamers competing in the biggest events are now playing for serious, life-changing sums of prize money, which means that the absolute best of the best have the chance to take their personal wealth to a whole new level.
For example, last year’s The International competition in Dota 2 featured a prize pool of more than $25 million, with the winning side OG securing a cool $11.2 million share of the money.
In addition, the League of Legends World Championships in 2018 featured a pool of $6.4 million, while the Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series also had an overall pot of $4 million. In essence, let’s just say there is more at stake than bragging rights.
With all of this in mind, it is clearly no surprise that eSports is treated with a huge level of seriousness these days.
The top competitions may be tremendous fun for fans to watch, but behind the scenes, the best players are working hard to ensure they stay at the top of their game.
eSports: Pushing Stereotypes Aside
It is fair to say that gaming is an area that has always attracted a certain stereotype down the years.
Ask the average person on the street and they would probably suggest gamers are fairly inactive, not the healthiest and ultimately do not get out much. However, when it comes to the world of eSports, that idea could probably not be further from the truth.
The prestige surrounding eSports and sports betting these days means that those at the top level work hard to maintain a level of physical health, which will ensure that they can perform at their very best in all of their competitions.
Put simply, there is much more to preparing for professional gaming events than a sharp mind and hours of gameplay on the title in question. Time in front of the screen is vital for training, but time away can also make a major difference.
As the British eSports Association outlines, gaming and eSports may not involve any particularly strenuous physical exertion but they can be mentally tiring at any level.
This is why the organisation advises that it is vital for players to always ensure they are getting regular sleep and exercise to boost their memories and help their mood and mental health.
Furthermore, the body stresses that the right diet can also make a huge difference, with it also suggesting that those serious about the issue even speak to a nutritionist or dietician for further information.
eSports: Elite Performance
But just how do some of the biggest teams in eSports approach this issue?
In an interview with The Guardian towards the end of last year, Carl Hagberg Flink from Fnatic revealed how the eSports organisation offers a range of support to players to ensure they can always perform to their best.
As well as offering competitors access to a gym membership and physiotherapist, he revealed how the team also reviews player performance in training sessions, ensures they do exercises to prevent injury and also provides players with chefs.
He added that he ultimately sees a future when eSports teams will have a set-up much similar to that currently used by many football clubs.
In terms of some of the routines used by specific players, Fnatic’s own Filip ‘SmX’ Liljestrom – who recently became team manager for the organisation’s Apex EU squad – gave Men’s Health magazine an insight into his own exercise regime last year.
The Swede revealed how on some weeks he will spend every day in the gym and performs a mixture of work ranging from chest and leg presses to time on the treadmill.
With interest in health and fitness becoming so important among the eSports community, it is also perhaps unsurprising to see that nutrition providers have started to formulate products designed to help athletes within the industry.
Runtime.GG is one example of a company making products specifically with eSports competitors in mind, with its CEO Alexander Zavoloka outlining how their products are aimed at balancing blood sugar levels.
This, in turn, is meant to ensure concentration and focus can be maintained – something that is, of course, vital to anyone looking to go the distance in a major eSports event.
eSports: Becoming The Best
All of this undoubtedly highlights just how ideas around health and nutrition in video gaming have completely changed.
While the idea of playing games for a living might have once seemed like a teenager’s dream, the concept has very much become a reality for some of the most talented players out there.
However, what is increasingly clear is that the right skills will only get you so far and, with eSports betting being bigger than ever before, maintaining a consistently high level of performance is vital.
The next time someone rolls their eyes and tells you that eSports do not count as real sport, it may be worth reminding them of the lengths that people are now going to in order to be the very best.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*