Filipinos have an unmatched devotion to basketball. But times have changed.
No, there isn’t a divide. We love basketball — the physicality, the thrill, the drama. But what this generation is raving for a good few years is the competitive nature of esports and the promise it brings to the fold: The future is here and the protagonists are the young ones.
As much as this tropic nation is fanatical to the sport that is dominated by the western powerhouse, it’s esports that has gained its ground to the youngsters and not-so-old.
Esports, the professional level of gaming, had no other perfect timing to blossom until this pandemic put all events to a complete halt in the country.
PBA had a good run inside a bubble in Pampanga, but that’s it. Golf was given the go signal for a couple of tournaments in Cavite and it’s over. There was also a 3×3 tournament in Calamba, boxing events in GenSan, Cebu and Laguna, but these were all worth a megabuck and truckload of permits.
Enter to the scene the world of professional gaming.
In the absence of activities caused by the pandemic, esports has made it presence ever so glowing. Mobile Legends, arguably the most popular game with a strong following north of millions, had already staged successful online tournaments. Bren Esports, the local champion, brought pride to the country by ruling the world championship last January.
There’s also the TNC Predator team, which is carrying on the roots of its famous run in big stages to wave the flag up so high in Dota 2 international scene. NRX Jeremiah 29:11, a group of young guns in the first-person shooter video game Call of Duty Mobile, also topped the region last year despite the setbacks of slow internet connection in the country.
Get this, for starters and doubters they might think esports is nothing but an arena for virtual competitors, a tiny community of nerds and school boys who are hooked to their mobile devices or desktops for lengthy periods and call it a day.
But esports had already secured its place in the Southeast Asian Games, a biennial event for the best athletes in this corner of the world. The Philippine delegates won three golds in front of the boisterous home crowd at The Arena in San Juan City back in late 2019. The Filipino dominated three events, the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Starcraft and Dota 2.
Because of its success, the next edition of the meet in Vietnam has also welcomed esports to its list of sporting events.
These gamers have also made quite a fortune from their legion of fans, sponsorships and tournament prize winnings.
A quick scroll on Facebook would bring you to a streamer, some the best in the game or others being casual gamers living the life with the money they get paid from live streaming. Big names have taken their popularity to YouTube, earning sums of six-digits a month for vlogging.
Businesses have also realigned their interest to esports, while stories of success have been printed in newspapers and were posted online — a good combination of exposure for the booming industry.
As innovations in technology swing on perpetual motion and the uncertainty that clouds this pandemic giving everyone the notion of anxiety, gaming — professional or not — has been the go-to reliever of stress for the majority, a livelihood for some, a source of entertainment for others.
While esports has already made it to the top by showing its true potential, respect and recognition should be given to the personalities that built the industry from scratch. Away from the spotlight years ago and now an enticing multi-million industry, esports has taken its role in many forms in these trying times.