A team of gamers just won $5 million for playing a video game. To gamers, the amount of money won is notable. To most of the world, competitive gaming is something like discovering a brand new world. To retro game lovers, this is the culmination of a time honored tradition to play a game at a competitive level. Gaming, at its heart, it competitive. It didn’t matter that the graphics were primitive, the gameplay speaks for itself. The desire to be the best in the world at something is a unique human quality that transfers extremely well to the virtual world.
Funny to think the road to that giant prize started with a simple, humble quarter.
In ancient gaming times, players would line up their quarters (for the uninitiated, placing a quarter on an arcade machine held your spot for “next”) for the chance to etch their digital initials in a Hi-Score list at the local arcade. Competitive players would hone their skills at classic arcade games and try and top the best scores in the pre-internet era. It’s funny to think now in the era of online matches, but it was one of the only ways local gaming communities could compare their skills and abilities.
There were no cash prizes, just bragging rights and a chance to go into the Guinness Book of World Records.
In all reality, that was all the great-great-great grandfather to what gamers are seeing with The International. Some arcades would even take it a step further and manually record scores from around the country to have a “master” list of the top players from different parts of the country. If you want to get lost in a rabbit hole, research Twin Galaxies and watch the brilliant documentary Chasing Ghosts – Beyond the Arcade.
Once gaming grew up, more formal tournaments started to crystallize. Events like EVO along with leagues like CPL, CAL and MLG started off small only to increase in size as awareness was building. At that point, competitive gaming at a large scale wasn’t just a distant dream, it was the inevitable. Now gamers will have to watch to see how big competitive gaming will get.
What we saw with the biggest gaming tournament ever, started a long time ago in a galaxy not too far away with a simple quarter.