If the past month has told us anything about sports, storylines are what pays the bills and what gets people in the seats. Every sport with at least a modicum of a following recognizes that storylines generate passion — for college, this statement can be magnified tenfold. If you follow college football, especially OU football, then you would know that this season (the 2021- 2022 season) is an emotional rollercoaster of fear-mongering news headlines and presumptuous titles — begging on hands and knees for you to click on them in order to get that sweet, sweet ad revenue. In a world increasingly saturated with instant gratification and an unholy amount of misinformation, sports feel like something we can always relate to. This article in no way intends to besmirch the journalistic integrity of news writers; however, I write this article to highlight how important the news is in our current zeitgeist and how it may be instrumental in the perpetuation of collegiate Esports as a legitimate contender of our time.
To start, I’d like to recognize my wonderfully talented colleague Silas Bales. His article, “The Future Of Collegiate Esports,” was a great inspiration in shaping the article you are currently reading and is a unique micro look into the development of Esports. After reading this article, I recommend everyone also go and read his as well.
Comparing History With The Zeitgeist
If it hasn’t caught on by now, the call-to-action style title of this article is purely satirical in nature. Although most of us have seen sports articles titled outlandish and foolish things such as “Why (Insert Coach/Player Name) is Coming to (Insert Your Favorite Team)!” the logical part in our brains will ignore these titles; however, in reality, these articles are what fuel the attention needed for a lot of sports programs. For instance, in 1984, according to the legal document NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the average college football ratings every Saturday was 16 million. For clarification, every Saturday may host anywhere from 14-35 games. Compare that statistic to the current viewership, where at least one game amasses around 16 million or more every weekend. Furthermore, in the 1980s, television had gone through an enormous leap in viewership. Over 23% of households owned a television. Our current number sits at roughly 83%. One might ask themselves as to why this is happening—my answer: the media and storylines.
For now, the overwhelming trailblazers of the gaming community are the media and personalities. It is slowly but surely becoming acceptable to watch people play video games for entertainment. This was something that once was highly scrutinized by mainstream media, is now fully embraced by it. The effect of the personality-driven Twitch streamer has caused organizations such as 100 Thieves to be for gaming and lifestyle products and luxury products, such as a complete Gucci designer line. With this style of growth, it is no wonder more people than ever are watching people play video games.
So now you may be wondering how this applies to collegiate Esports. One has to look no further than the University of Oklahoma to give them the answer. Whether it be the legacy of the brash and entertaining former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield or even the questionable QB rotation in the 2021-2022 season that saw Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler battle it out for a spot. All eyes were refreshing Twitter and watching the news to see any possible updates. I don’t think I will ever forget the reaction in the student section when Caleb Williams was announced to have usurped the Quarterback position from the once-beloved poster boy of OU. The feeling of everyone jumping and hollering as you view your new man in charge of bringing you to victory— such a reaction is universal in all sports, and I would contend is the most remarkable example of comradery we have today. It took decades for collegiate football to become the nationwide obsession that it is. The first American football game ever played was in 1896 between colleges Rutgers and Princeton. It would be almost fifty years later, in 1920, that the NFL would be created, and nineteen years later in 1939, when the first game would be recorded and televised.
Future Implications In Esports
All of this is to say that there is so much more room to grow for Esports. The pure amount of content already available for viewers to enjoy is immense. I would argue that because there is an almost oversaturation of games being played, it is hard for the general public to grasp which ones are important and which pens host pure generational talents. But just like football, anyone can pick up a ball and play. The personalities and pure, raw talent bring people in the stands to make new, fascinating memories.