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#Esports: Why pro video #gaming will be bigger than the #NFL $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 2:44 PM on Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Players of ‘Dota 2’ and ‘League of Legends’ reap millions

SHOTARO TANI, Nikkei staff writer

Teams face off at the League of Legends Champions Korea tournament in Seoul on Feb. 1. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO — For those above a certain age, sports are all about pushing the lungs, muscles and mind to the limit in the pursuit of victory. They are played in the open air on a track or field, or indoors on a court or in a pool.

But for many people who have never known a world without the internet, that definition looks incomplete. For them, sports are just as likely to be played sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a glowing PC. Instead of a bat, racket or ball, they are equipped with bulky headphones, state-of-the-art keyboards and a lightning-fast mouse.

Han Ki-hoon, a 25-year-old from South Korea, is one of these new athletes. Sitting in a small room on the seventh floor of an apartment on the outskirts of Tokyo, curtains shut to block out the sunlight, Han quivers his mouse with his right hand, directing his character where to go next. On the screen his half-human, half-monster character faces off against other digital creatures, and a number pops up every time a character inflicts damage on another.

Han, whose gaming name is viviD, is one of the millions who play the online game “League of Legends,” or LoL for short. What sets him apart from the rest is that he plays professionally, lending his talents to Japanese gaming team DetonatioN Gaming.

Han’s esports career prompted his move to Japan two years ago. “I was playing for a South Korean team, but it ran into operational difficulties,” Han recalled. “I declared myself a free agent, and DetonatioN Gaming came calling.”

South Korean esports pro Han Ki-hoon came to Japan on an athletic visa. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

LoL is a strategy game that pits teams of three or five players against each other. Good communication among teammates is essential — so much so that Han lives, eats, sleeps and trains with four other DetonatioN LoL players and a coach in room 701 of their apartment building. They call it “The Gaming House.”

It is easy to dismiss the idea that playing video games, even at a high level, is the same thing as athletics. But esports players argue that the act of professionally competing in top titles such as LoL, which require quick thinking, fast reflexes and dedication, is as demanding as standard sports. When Han is not playing the game, he is either eating or sleeping. “I don’t play any other games,” he said, not even for fun.

Whatever the purists may say, Han has some important supporters who have little doubt that he is an athlete — including the Japanese government. Han was one of the first esports players to be granted an athletic visa by Japan.

Japan is just one of the countries seeking to catch up with the more developed esports markets — South Korea, China and the U.S. — in the hope of nurturing a new, fast-growing industry. The Hong Kong government recently vowed to invest HK$100 million ($12.7 million) to develop the Cyberport business park as an esports training and competition venue.

Such official support is understandable, given projections that the industry will generate around $1 billion a year by 2021. For Japan, nurturing the esports scene should pay off later by boosting tourism and helping its domestic gaming companies, like Nintendo and Capcom.



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