Over the past few decades, competitive gaming competitions known as eSports have been growing in participation and popularity to such an extent that the winners of global eSports leagues such as ‘the overwatch league’ can gain six or sometimes seven figures in prize money. The reason it is possible for events such as this to bring in enough revenue to also warrant putting on these shows in sold-out arenas across the globe is due to the overwhelming support and enthusiasm of the worldwide gaming community. However recent endeavours such as the Inaugural Formula 1 eSports series held last year shows that competitive gaming also has the ability to reach a wider audience than just gamers themselves.
Organised eSports have been in existence since the early days of video gaming, However, the seeds of the grand scale events we were used to now are first noticeable in the 1990s. Some of the games that paved the way for this include fighting games such as Street Fighter 2. First Person Shooters, the first of which was Doom which in turn preceded Quake and now such globally recognised games as Call of Duty and Overwatch. Another popular game type for early eSports were Real Time Strategy games, the most popular of which at the time was StarCraft, which advanced the competitiveness of eSports due to the multitude of tactical opportunities possible during competitive play.
All of this groundwork paved the way for the modern boom of competitive eSports Leagues worldwide. These days if there is a game that has a competitive component the chances are that there is a competitive league surrounding that game somewhere in the world. Also, if that game contains a title such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike, World of Warcraft or Dota they also have the capability of containing millions of both viewers worldwide and dollars in prize money.
Motor racing is still to this day a thriving industry with thousands of competitions held all over the world with millions of viewers. The mixture of speed, sound, and danger have made fans flock to race tracks for decades. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that eSports racing has been increasing in popularity also. While it may not deliver in the aspects of sound and danger of regular racing leagues iRacing still contains close racing from extremely talented drivers in a virtual setting.
Often referred to as the pinnacle of motorsport Formula 1 is the most viewed and technologically advanced racing league in the world. Officially founded in 1950 Formula 1 is the highest level of single seater auto racing a professional driver can reach, it is a sport that comprises the best drivers in the world against one another in some of the fastest racing cars of all time. One of the most recent but undoubtedly high-profile eSports racing leagues to be created was the inaugural Formula 1 pro series which was first held last year and is currently (as of October 2018) in the middle of its second season. This year, however, the league has taken a huge step in the promotion of eSports as a legitimate sport with 9 actual Formula 1 teams acknowledging its importance by joining the pro series and becoming directly involved in the sport themselves. The Formula 1 eSports Pro Series began with a qualifying phase consisting of over 66,000 gamers. Currently the 25 contracted competitors are competing for a prize pool of $200,000 across ten races through three live broadcasted events. They will compete in ten races across virtual Formula 1 circuits taken from the actual 2018 Formula 1 Calendar.
The first example of these Formula 1 teams’ positive involvement in eSports was through a pro Draft held before the season began, where the teams chose which drivers they wanted from a pool of potential contenders. This shows that the people from the real-world sport understand that eSports competitors have the potential to become legitimate athletes themselves. It is also encouraging to see the production values and effort that have been put into the sets, equipment, and coverage of these events, which includes insights and commentary from actual formula 1 drivers. Furthermore, some of the strategies used in competitive play, the tactical analysis of the races, and the structures of the racing itself draw intriguing and exciting parallels to the sport of Formula 1 itself. This new series uses the current Official Formula 1 game F1 2018. This is exciting for video game lovers who play the game themselves and also enjoy Formula 1, but what is even more exciting is the idea that Formula 1 fans who have never watched or may not be aware of eSports can become aware of it in this way, thus growing the following of competitive gaming to an entirely new audience.
The introduction of an official eSports racing series being created by the most popular motorsport in the world can only deliver more positive and lucrative opportunities for eSports as a whole and take the entire entity of competitive gaming into a direction where it can become more widely known and accepted as a legitimate sport by the wider public.