Sport: The Virtual Athlete

Article excerpt

Before the end of this year a proposal will be brought before Sport England asking for e-sports--that is, the playing of competitive computer games--to be recognised as an official sport. Many will struggle to think of anything more absurd, but, for many gamers, the sports lifestyle is already a reality.

In the decade since Dennis Fong, the first professional gamer, won Microsoft's Death match '95, steadily increasing numbers of players have been giving up their day jobs. They are the stars of a culture in which you earn respect by showing brilliance, not with a ball, but with your mouse.

The Cyberathlete Professional League, launched in 1997, has organised huge competitions across five continents and distributed more than $3m in prize money, and that is just one league. We now also have the World Cyber Games, the Electronic Sports World Cup, the World eSports Games and the World Series of Video Games. Hardly a month passes without hundreds of gamers jetting off to a foreign city to compete for six-figure prizes.

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And e-sports is big business. Hardware firms such as Intel and Samsung were involved almost from the start, but now companies with a slightly less direct interest--Pizza Hut and Subway, for example--have become involved. To them, e-sports are a useful way of reaching 16-to 24-year-olds with disposable income. …