My Take

Don't bet your life and education on electronic sports

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 5:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 5:03am

Like most parents, I scream at my kids every day to get them to stop playing computer games and do their homework. What I find particularly troubling is that they don't just play, they spend hours online watching other people - gamers who are more skilled or even famous - compete and explain their games.

Playing online is one thing; at least you are involved. Watching strikes me as a supreme waste of time which just takes "unproductivity" to a whole new level. But I belong to an ageing demographic that just didn't realise how big a business this "watching" - properly called e-sports - and its online audience has become. I just didn't get it.

Or I only start connecting the dots when I read business news reports that Amazon is planning to spend almost US$1 billion - yes, you read that right - to buy! What does Twitch do? It basically streams all day long people who play games like Call of Duty, League of Legends and other popular games. Or you can get to a higher "meta" level by joining other audiences to watch and comment on the gamers.

Now I get it. Every financially successful sport has to have a huge audience. Online gaming is now being billed as an e-sport and indeed has a huge internet audience. (Actually it strikes me rather as the opposite of physical sport, that is, anti-sport. But that's just me and my bias.) Last October, 32 million people went to Twitch to watch a live championship for League of Legends.

Our city too has Hong Kong Esports, the company which recently hosted the Hong Kong Electronic Sports Tournament. Its grand finals had a prize pool of HK$1.5 million. The company's mission - God forbid! - is to prove that you can make a living, even a career, as a gamer. It says its online players can earn anything from HK$6,000 to a breathtaking HK$80,000 a month.

All this makes it more difficult for parents. You can no longer take the moral high ground. Your kids will come back and say: "Hey, gaming pays. I could be earning more than you do." Indeed, it is possible to become a teenage millionaire gamer, just like it's possible to become the next Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Taylor Swift. But I hate to tell you, kiddo; just don't bet your life and education on that.