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The rise and rise of eSports in the UK

ESports team playing Counterstrike

ESports has become a cultural phenomenon, and the UK is fast becoming its European hub, with Cardiff at its heart.

ESports team playing Counterstrike

A team discusses strategy during a recent Counterstrike tournament

To the uninitiated, eSports is organised, competitive computer gaming. Professionals are sponsored millions of dollars, and live eSports events sell out arenas in the US and South Korea. This culture is rapidly gaining ground here.

According to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), the UK was estimated to be the sixth largest video games market in the world in 2015, raking in over £4bn. UKIE estimates over £6m of this came from events, like eSports tournaments.  This figure is increasing due to the growing number of tournaments being organised at grassroots level.

With roughly only ten gaming centers in the UK, Talk & Surf Gaming (TSG) has made Cardiff a hub for eSports fans, with people travelling from all over to play in their tournaments. David Parker, 22, a coffee shop manager, travelled from Bath to play in a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament at TSG recently. “I think of it as a sport. I don’t like physical sports but I love online gaming,” he said. David considers pro-gamers to be athletes; a sentiment shared by Kaz Din, owner of TSG. He says that the level of mental training endured by pro-gamers is comparable to that of a professional footballer.

Kaz Din at a recent eSports tournament

Kaz Din, owner of TSG, has witnessed the popularity of eSports first-hand

As owner of TSG, Kaz attributes technological advances and ease of access to the internet for pro-gaming’s surge in popularity. He  says there needs to be a “push” from the government to make the UK a global leader in pro-gaming. One American university awards scholarships to eSports players, something Kaz thinks could be implemented here. He also cites the recent push to make eSports an Olympic event as an example of why pro-gaming should not be underestimated as a sport.

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