Competitive video gaming has existed since the earliest days of arcade systems and home entertainment devices. In 1980, Atari hosted the Space Invaders Tournament, which had over ten thousand competitors and hinted at the potential for future large scale video game competitions. For the most part however, in the late 1970s and 1980s competitions would often not extend beyond contests among friends and rivals. At the start of the 1990s, as home video game consoles and personal computers became more advanced and they were acquired by larger and larger numbers of the population, there was a growing demand for these video game systems to accommodate multiple players trying to complete an objective or compete with each other. The 1990s E-Sports scene was dominated by the rise of the PC and during the first part of the decade competitive PC gaming was focused on first person shooter (FPS), arcade style, and sports games. Some significant tournaments were held during this time, but the release of StarCraft and its expansion StarCraft:Brood War in 1998 established this real-time strategy (RTS) game franchise as the leader in E-Sports, and laid the foundation for the massive E-Sports competitions today.
Interest in E-Sports began to surge in the 2000s, with Major League Gaming (MLG), the World Cyber Games, and the Electronic Sports World Cup all being established before 2003. In the United States and throughout Europe competitive gaming centered on FPS games like Halo 2 and Counter Strike. In the early 2000s these events were covered almost exclusively by MLG, but despite their popularity, E-Sports failed to make the transition to more traditional media like television. For example, MLG’s early efforts to put Halo 2 competitions on network TV failed due to low viewership, resulting in almost all competitions being streamed over the internet. During this period, StarCraft remained the most popular E-Sports title in most Asian markets, being broadcast on television and streamed over the internet until the release of StarCraft 2 in 2010, at which point the sequel became the overwhelming favorite for international competitions.
The current climate of E-Sports is changing rapidly, driven in part by the exploding popularity of multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA), increased marketing potential, and increased interest in E-Sports outside of the traditional hot-spots of Japan and South Korea. This presents some huge opportunities and challenges for anyone interested in the coverage of E-Sports events. Opportunities are extensive, especially for individuals capable of assessing complex strategy across a multitude of game types. These opportunities are also often tied to reporting on tech industry topics, in part because of the corporations that provide equipment and sponsorship to the competitors. Industry heavyweights Activision Blizzard, Valve, Sony, and Microsoft are all investing heavily in personnel and development to cash in on the new trends via press reports, product placement, etc.It also helps that as different game genres have become popular, some are naturally bettered suited to a competitive landscape, both for the competitors and the audience. For example, FPS, RTS, and MOBA games are accessible but difficult to master and provide ample opportunity for reporters to focus on the personalities within each team, strategies, and provide exciting visual content for an audience. However, extensive challenges remain for reporters interested in E-Sports journalism. Some examples include needing the ability to address the unique rules of each game, and game type, for a lay audience, and being capable of providing knowledgeable commentary and insight on the competitions. Overall, journalists will have ample opportunity to cover E-Sports and tech events if they educate themselves on the unique characteristics of the topic and its intricacies.