The History of Esports

Although the sector has only recently risen to prominence, the idea of esports has been around for almost as long as video games. The developers who came up with one of the very earliest video games, Space War!, were students at the internationally renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology and they kickstarted what has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Spacewar! was the work of a group of research assistants and employees at the university who came up with the idea of using the university’s computer equipment to play a custom-designed game. It was completed in 1962, and such was the popularity of their creation that other students wanted to play as well.

The program was installed on other computers, making it the first game of its kind to be played on multiple different devices.

In retrospect, it’s fair to say that the team were pioneers of the open-source movement, as the game was shared with pretty much anyone who had the equipment to run it. This meant that it was adapted and added to by fans of the game and keen students that wanted to put their knowledge to good use.

Soon, university students all over America were playing Spacewar! and the programming community were using the very latest technology to enjoy this compelling and hugely innovative game. The controls were even upgraded by Bob Saunders who built a game pad to make it easier to play than the switches that had been used previously.


The first tournament

As more and more people became aware of Spacewar!, the natural next move was to see which of the brand-new genre of gamers had mastered the controls most effectively. Even at this early stage, when mainstream media picked up on the popularity of the game, they immediately recognized the potential.

This was how Rolling Stone magazine was in the unique position of sponsoring the very first esports tournament on the 19th of October, 1972.  Named ‘The Intergalactic Spacewar!  Olympics’, the event was hosted at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory using a machine that would let five players compete against each other.

Rolling Stone covered the event in the issue released on the 7th of December and intrigued readers learned how the winner, Bruce Baumgart, saw off the competition to win a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone. As a student of artificial intelligence and robotics, it was perhaps unsurprising that Baumgart was able to master the game’s controls and beat the other players in this hotly contested battle.

Little did anyone at the time realize, but Baumgart would later be recognized as the first esports champion and be part of the story of one of the fastest-growing sporting sectors around.


Esports today

In the decades since Spacewar! captured the imaginations of a handful of students, esports has become a hugely popular mainstream activity that attracts millions of players each year. The variety of games has expanded massively as well, with a wide choice of everything from racing cars to controlling entire fleets and everything in between.

With such a wide selection of impressively creative games being played, it’s no surprise that esports also has a dedicated fan base watching the bigger matches on mainstream media and following more niche events live online.

Esports enthusiasts can make almost any game more exciting by betting on the winner, and top websites such as offer punters the chance to win big on the outcome of some of the most popular esports events.

As with any other sport, esports gamblers can find out information about the players’ form online, with plenty of specialist sites giving details of who is playing, their strengths and weaknesses, and any other information that might make it easier to predict who is going to come out on top.


Sports fans and esports fans

There is significant crossover between fans of traditional sports and sports enthusiasts, and anyone who has played fantasy football will appreciate the appeal of shunning reality and exploring other universes for fun. Some of the most popular games for esports tournaments include:

  • Counter Strike
  • League of Legends
  • Fortnite
  • Dota
  • Overwatch
  • PUBG
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • StarCraft

The tournaments have prize pools worth millions of dollars, so the players competing are usually on top form with skills, speed, and timing that will impress other gamers. While these events can attract crowds of thousands in person with millions following the action online, and it’s a sector that is growing quickly, so fans that want to leverage their knowledge into winning bets can do so.


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