Competitive gaming has seen a massive increase in popularity over the past few years, both internationally and in South Africa.
Games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have helped take eSports to an international scale, with gaming tournaments surpassing conventional sports in viewership and prize pools.
South African eSports has seen steady growth, and although the local scene is not as large as in countries like the US or Sweden, competitive gaming is on its way to becoming a real sport locally.
A big contributor to the rise of eSports was the growth of live streaming platforms, the most notable of which is Twitch.
Once gamers could watch their favourite teams compete in tournaments from anywhere in the world, viewers of gaming competitions began to snowball and teams quickly developed into professional businesses.
International professional gaming teams are now run in a similar fashion to football clubs, with players being bought for ridiculous sums of money and transfer periods for set tournaments and leagues.
Gamers also earn celebrity status within their community, with many becoming overnight millionaires and landing expensive marketing deals.
Valve’s eSports documentary Free to Play: The Movie does an excellent job of documenting the personalities of the competitive gaming world.
Both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are popular competitive games in South Africa and Valve has provided South African servers so local gamers can compete in official matchmaking.
There are numerous other tournaments within the South African competitive gaming scene, too, and South African competitive gaming teams regularly travel to Europe and America to compete in tournaments.
eSports is no longer confined to online live streaming and has made many appearances on TV channels, including ESPN.
South African sport channels have also become involved, with SuperSport debuting its first eSports event in March last year.
This, as competitive gaming looks to become a regular feature alongside conventional sports such as football and rugby on both TV and online platforms.
While SuperSport does not regularly broadcast local eSports tournaments, this may change as the local scene continues to grow.
In recent years, the South African competitive gaming scene has seen a massive amount of growth.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 quickly became two of the most popular competitive games in the country, and tournaments began to see larger prize pools with fiercer competition.
Telkom’s Do Gaming League underwent a rebranding to create the Digital Gaming League, which hosted the country’s first R1-million eSports invitational tournament.
The DGL Masters Series saw eight of South Africa’s best competitive teams compete for their share of the massive prize pool in both CS:GO and Dota 2.
More recently, a new South African eSports studio named Mettlestate has partnered with Samsung and Asus to host a R1-million tournament for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Mettlestate aims to align local gaming competition with standards set by international authorities and has partnered with Twitch to grow the local eSports scene.
As more money is invested in South African eSports and it is given more exposure, local gamers are beginning to earn enough to become professional competitors.
According to eSports host Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, regular prize money and increased publicity are the most important factors influencing the growth of competitive gaming in South Africa.
Although most of the interest in local gaming lies with multi-gaming organisations like Energy Esports and Bravado Gaming, competitive gamers compete in school as well.
When playing against other schools or provincial teams, students can earn colours for competitive gaming.
Students can earn Regional, Provincial, National, and Protea Colours, which are awarded by Mind Sports South Africa – the national controlling body for numerous sporting disciplines.
The number of people interested in eSports worldwide is constantly growing and while conventional sports may be more popular at a school level, the increased investment and interest in professional gaming means it will one day be a serious contender against other sports in South Africa.