It is difficult to say when esports first emerged exactly. Video game tournaments have been held since the 1960s, but it was only when the internet became widely used that esports started to become popular and called “esports.” Until the late 2000s, esports competitions were mainly between amateurs. Once professional gamers gained traction and events began to be streamed live, there was a massive surge in esports’ popularity. By the end of the 2010s, esports had become a major part of the video game industry, with many developers actively creating games and providing funds for tournaments. Let’s look back at some of the key games that paved the way for modern esports.
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Today, anyone can play video games, or slot games like those at Casumo casino, by simply accessing the internet. So, it is no wonder that esports is so popular in this age, as accessing the games and tournaments has never been easier. But decades before the internet, one of the very first video games to be created was being played competitively. Spacewar! was created in 1962 for the PDP-10 computer. Two players would control spaceships as they battled against each other. Even at that time, the game had similarities to modern games because the spaceships had limited fuel supplies and ammunition. Ten years later, on October 19, 1972, the world’s first esports tournament took place: The Intergalactic Spacewar! Olympics. Organized by Stanford University’s Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence, the competition saw 24 players competing. The winner received an annual subscription to Rolling Stone magazine, which is a far cry from the huge cash prizes gamers playing esports can win today.
Although there were other tournaments in the 1970s, the next notable game that paved the way for modern esports was the all-time classic Space Invaders. In 1978, Atari held the world’s first major esports tournament in which Space Invaders was competitively played. Two years later, the 1980 Space Invaders Championships saw 10,000 gamers competing against one another. The winner was William Salvador Heineman, who became the first winner of a national video game competition.
In 1988, the very first multiplayer computer game appeared: Netrek. The real-time strategy game based in the Star Trek universe could host up to 16 players who competed against one another on the internet. Players took on the role of the Federation, the Klingons, the Orion, or the Romulans to conquer a galaxy of 40 planets. Although Netrek is the main forerunner of internet esports competitions and was played worldwide, it was mainly played by computer scientists, as they were the only ones who had access to the internet at the time.
Modern esports followed Netrek in the mid-1990s. The games that were played as esports were ones that had devoted fanbases. Fighting games and first-person shooters were the main genres played. In the 2010s, real-time strategy games and sports video games also became popular genres of esports. One of the very first games to become a popular modern e-sport was Quake. In 1996, the first-person shooter game got its own annual convention, and in 1997, the first offline Quake tournament was held. The winner, Dennis Fong, received as a prize Quake co-creator John D. Carmack’s very own red Ferrari 328 GTS convertible!
Counter Strike was another of the first games to be played competitively in the modern era of esports. The original Counter Strike game was a mod released in 1999. Since then, the Counter Strike series has grown. Games that are now played competitively include Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first significant Counter Strike tournament was held in 2001 at the Cyberathlete Professional League Winter Championship in Dallas, Texas. The competition offered a prize pool of $150,000.
One of the first games to resemble a modern-day e-sport, and one which is still popular today, was StarCraft. StarCraft’s popularity as an e-sport began in South Korea. Two game channels in the country each ran a Starleague, which began in 2002. The original tournaments were viewed by millions and continue to attract massive audiences today. Large South Korean companies sponsored the StarCraft tournaments. Since the StarCraft competitions began, more than $4,000,000 (USD) has been awarded in prize money.