MY TAKE
My Take
by

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 Twitch.tv! 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.