The history of sports has seen a gradual transformation in the way athletes train-up their sporting prowess. The days of simply practicing a sport by playing it are long gone. Instead, sports science has carved a new path for athletic development, both in terms of physiological capacities, and cognitive abilities. eSports has been taking a similar approach, but at light speed. And as we will see here, it shows no sign of stopping. Which is why eSports is set to redefine what it actually means to train.
Ever wondered which careers involve the most training? Most people would think of professional sports, as many types of athletes workout around 5-6 hours per day, 6 days a week. As you’ve probably guessed from this topic, the definitive answer is eSports. Professional cyber athletes typically train 8 hours per day, with top Korean players known to train up to 12-15 hours per day. Though this sounds an insane amount of time, this hyper-commitment to training is being driven by an equally insane level of competition.
Take the FIFA eWorld Cup for example, each year over 20 million players go head-to-head on the virtual pitch, with just a single player being crowned the ultimate champion. By some estimates, as many as one billion gaming fans are vying to become competitive players at some level or another. Prize money and major sponsorship deals are also encouraging eSports athletes to excel.
An Exploding Industry
One of the attractions to pro-gaming is that it can actually be a lucrative career option. Each year more than $100m is dished out in prize money to competitive gamers. Games like Dota 2 are serving out in excess of $20m dollars in a single tournament, and the prize pools are growing year by year. Already set to debut as a real sport in the next Asian Games, the Olympics Games look to be next to put eSports on the global stage.
It’s not just gamers who are getting in on the eSports action either – the industry is seeing a massive rise in spectators. In 2017, the eSports industry made $1.5bn in revenue, with forecasts predicting global revenue to hit $2.3bn by 2022.
Believe it or not, the entertainment side of eSports has a larger viewership than HBO, Netflix and ESPN combined, and is predicted to surpass the NBA and the NFL in popularity.
Professionalized Gaming Teams
The dramatic rise in the popularity and economic value of eSports has attracted the genesis of eSports ‘Teams‘. This might not sound too exciting, but these are actually major commercial companies dedicated to fostering talent across a multitude of video games.
A single team will typically enter cyber athletes into 200 or more competitions per year. With so many athletes under their wings and the finance to change the nature of the playing field, these companies are totally focused on pushing the boundaries of training. This video gives an insight into how quickly they are transforming the domain of eSports.
eSports 1.0 – training solo at home, only meeting teammates at competitions
eSports 2.0 – training and living together in a house with teammates and a coach
eSports 3.0 – training in a dedicated facility with teammates, technologies and coaching staff
The Sports Science Paradigm
In these dedicated centers, the new goal is to train the whole performance system, getting both physically and mentally fit. One factor is simply health, as pro-gamers typically burnout in their early 20’s. Cashing in on this are nutrition brands that are solely dedicated to the eSports market, dubbed as ‘functional food for gamers’.
Another aspect is the use of cutting-edge technologies that traditional athletes use. As well as physiological science, this shift also fits with the growing trend to enhance the mental performance of pro-athletes.
Matching the pace of growth in eSports, this is new performance paradigm is radically changing how gamers can better themselves at a fundamental level. Soon, eSports training centers might well look more like NASA facilities than video gaming dens.
The AI Paradigm
An even more recent and rapid trend is the totally new concept of being trained by software guided by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Learn2Play, a Cyprus-based start-up, is one such group of many springing up around the world. Learn2Play helps competitive gamers develop their skills using AI and machine learning, through online training schools for games with that pull in the biggest tournaments.Even though they are essentially a brand-new company, they’ve already recruited 1.5 million gamers looking to sharpen their skill-sets.
The key advantage of being able to train remotely, accessing is a potentially vast global market of budding gamers. So even though this revolution of internet-based training is still in its infancy, it is primed for expansion at a staggering exponential rate. Israel, with it’s tech focused industries, is even looking to develop a whole new economy around this model.
Perhaps the most powerful element in the AI paradigm is the truly phenomenal rate at which general AI is being evolved by megalithic companies like Google. As we covered in a separate blog, Google’s Deep Mind project recently moved on from dominating board games like Chess and Go, to whitewashing some of the world’s best players at the complex real-time strategy game Starcraft II.
Rather than feeling humiliated at the hands of the AI defeat, instead, the eSports stars were fascinated at the opportunity to better themselves by playing against superior opponents. The AI also presented the chance to learn new strategies, never before seen in the game.
At a sheer performance level of training, eSports is evolving fast…really, really fast. With just a little forward thinking, it’s easy to envisage this industry redefining how people’s skills and talents are developed in practically any industry… from fighter pilots to surgeons. As we’ve covered before, cyber athletes likely represent the human pinnacle of mental agility, and being intimately fused with technology, they are now spearheading a revolution in performance training.
Watch this space…
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