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The result of being stuck inside: Esports rise in popularity due to the pandemic



Everyone is well aware that the last 18 months have been pretty difficult, in all manner of different ways. People being forced to work from home, away from their colleagues and work friends. Not being able to see their family, missing birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. Longing to hang out with friends, having to have birthday parties on Zoom instead of at restaurants or in pubs. It was particularly bleak, and hopefully a situation we won’t have to experience ever again.


Those first few months were some of the most challenging, as not only were people not allowed outside, but there was a complete lack of live sport on television, which would have normally acted as a great distraction from what was happening around us. It’s one thing not allowing people to congregate in large stadiums, which made a lot of sense given the introduction of social distancing but to stop sport completely was a real kick in the teeth for fans all over the world. Thankfully in May it slowly began to come back, with the German soccer league (the Bundesliga) being the first to start up again.


Being forced to stay inside meant people have to find new, indoor hobbies, to replace the void that the lack of live sport had left. For some, it meant learning to bake, with Banana bread being a particularly popular choice. For others, it meant blowing off the dust of the old guitar in the corner and seeing if you could still play G and C chords. It’s unclear whether these skills will come in handy, but a good way to measure it will be if we see an emergence of world-class chefs and guitarists coming to the forefront in the next few years.

Who needs sports when there is Esports?


For many others who can’t cook or didn’t own an acoustic guitar, they turned on their Xbox, Playstation 4, or PC, found their headset and started gaming. It was also seen as a great time to upgrade your kit, replacing old screens that no longer looked as sharp as they once did, buying a new controller to replace the one you hurled at the wall after a particularly unfair death, or getting a new HDMI cable as the last one was bitten in half by a particularly excitable kitten.


Playing games with your friends online was one of the best ways to stay connected with each other when you couldn’t meet in person. It also meant people had much longer to practice and play games online, meaning they would get much better than they’d ever been before.  While most sports tournaments were either postponed or cancelled, the vast majority of Esports tournaments still went as scheduled. For those who enjoy using Bovada sports betting for placing bets online, these tournaments were a great outlet for gambling online, as well as a great source of entertainment.


The demographic of gamers have usually been made up of young boys, teenagers and early-twenties adults. This was mainly because they were seen to be the group who not only had the most free time but also had the disposable income to buy new games and to upgrade their equipment. Since the pandemic, this has certainly shifted, with far more female gamers coming to the forefront. Top female players such as Scarlett (real name Sasha Hostyn) has made $400,000 through gaming, clearly showing it is not such a male-dominated world anymore.


Most popular games played post-pandemic?

Fortnite was certainly one of the most popular online games in the runup to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that in 2019, 250 million users played the game, an increase of 100% from the previous year. Not only that, but famous sports stars often talked about their fondness of the game, including JuJu Smith-Schuster (wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers) Josh Hart (shooting guard for the New Orleans Pelicans) and Dele Alli (attacking midfielder for Tottenham Hotspur) are all known to play, which has done no harm for its popularity. Figures show that 300 million people played Fornite during 2020, which shows it certainly wasn’t slowed down by the pandemic.


Other very popular games include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first-person shooter has had a huge following ever since its first release and is available on all formats. Minecraft, a sandbox video game developed by Mojang Studios, was first released nearly 10 years ago but continues to be popular to this day. Again, it appeals to a wide spectrum of players, making it one of the most played games online during the pandemic.


Certainly, there was a spike in people logging on and gaming during the pandemic, with Esports seeing its popularity continuing to rise. It will now be interesting to monitor to see if this trend continues now that we are allowed outside, and not confined to sitting in front of our computer and TV screens.

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