Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming
How a form of play becomes a sport: players, agents, referees, leagues, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators, and the culture of professional computer game play.
Competitive video and computer game play is nothing new: the documentary King of Kong memorably portrays a Donkey Kong player's attempts to achieve the all-time highest score; the television show Starcade (1982–1984) featured competitions among arcade game players; and first-person shooter games of the 1990s became multiplayer through network play. A new development in the world of digital gaming, however, is the emergence of professional computer game play, complete with star players, team owners, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators. In Raising the Stakes, T. L. Taylor explores the emerging scene of professional computer gaming and the accompanying efforts to make a sport out of this form of play.
In the course of her explorations, Taylor travels to tournaments, including the World Cyber Games Grand Finals (which considers itself the computer gaming equivalent of the Olympics), and interviews participants from players to broadcasters. She examines pro-gaming, with its highly paid players, play-by-play broadcasts, and mass audience; discusses whether or not e-sports should even be considered sports; traces the player's path from amateur to professional (and how a hobby becomes work); and describes the importance of leagues, teams, owners, organizers, referees, sponsors, and fans in shaping the structure and culture of pro-gaming.
Taylor connects professional computer gaming to broader issues: our notions of play, work, and sport; the nature of spectatorship; the influence of money on sports. And she examines the ongoing struggle over the gendered construction of play through the lens of male-dominated pro-gaming. Ultimately, the evolution of professional computer gaming illuminates the contemporary struggle to convert playful passions into serious play.
Praise for Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming
… Taylor has given us a great account of an exciting part of gaming culture.—Faltin Karlsen, Times Higher Education—
While Raising the Stakes fits neatly within the gaming studies or media studies genres, it is also an exciting and novel contribution to the growing body of work in what might be termed global technology studies.
—Jenna Burrell, Contemporary Sociology—
Raising the Stakes is a must not only for game studies but also media and internet studies researchers as a wonderfully nuanced study of century-first digital play-based in DIY, grassroots ideology-in the face of burgeoning leisure commercialization. Play on.
Esports is a fascinating collision of new technology and culture with traditional sports structure, and is a phenomenon that could only happen in the present. There is a growing body of research around the growing esports phenomenon, and this book provides a great primer into the academic perspective on the emerging culture. In my opinion, this is the book to refer anyone to who is interested in understanding esports—for both newcomers and veterans.
—Timothy Young, Day9—
Taylor's book is a valuable piece of scholarship that lays the groundwork for further investigation into all aspects of video games as sport and players as athletes.
—Steve Jacobs, American Journal of Play—