WATCH: Largest Esports Festival in the U.S. Helps Georgia’s Booming Economy, Gaming Industry on the Path to Mainstream Acceptance
Many parents put a time limit on the amount of video games their teens can play growing up. But for teens and young adults at the Dreamhack Digital Festival this year in Atlanta, they’ve put countless hours into training competitively. No physical training is required, though, but rather mental strategy, hand-eye coordination and team management.
What once was a taboo industry is now set to cross the billion-dollar threshold worldwide by next year. Over a decade ago, a section of the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act – originally intended to incentivize T.V. and movie companies to film in the state – rolled out an annual tax credit of up to $1.5 million, with an annual statewide cap of $12.5 million for the creation and design of “interactive entertainment projects” or, video games and mobile apps. The video game industry in Atlanta employs over 3,000 people and generates nearly $300 million in revenue, and since the tax credit expanded to include video games, many native companies in Georgia have taken advantage of the credit – which is worth up to 30% of production costs.
Just before the three-day festival began, Atlanta officials launched the Atlanta Esports Alliance to further drive Atlanta as the capital of professional esports.
“Because Atlanta is the No. 1 city for gaming environment and No. 5 city for gamers, the Atlanta Esports Alliance is being launched to drive new opportunities for teams, tournaments, venues and esports service providers and partners in Atlanta,” the Dreamhack press release read.
With economic and technological advancements steadily increasing, streaming services, such as Twitch, have also evolved the gaming industry since 2016. Not only can gamers play in front of a live audience made up of thousands, but they gain a unique economic opportunity through monthly channel subscribers. Each subscriber amounts anywhere between $3-$5, which means an intermediate gamer who has 500 subscribers makes an average of $2,500 a month – equivalent to a minimum wage job in California.
Like any other sport, esports has an area of controversy: eradicating discrimination against competitive female gamers and misconceptions about the gaming community. Women in professional gaming are often underestimated by the male players, who make up 80.5% of Twitch users. All female competitions have been formed to create a sense of community among girl gamers, however, that doesn’t stop them from competing in general competitions. A few women we talked to at Dreamhack explained they’ve seen a rise in girl gamers in recent years and more acceptance from the male players. Unlike traditional sports, women gamers aren’t at a physical disadvantage – which means professional esports provides a completely fair competition between men and women.
Aside from girl gamers creating a new wave in gaming culture, many misconceptions plague the gaming community as a whole. According to players we spoke to at Dreamhack, many people are shocked when they find out large tournaments are held for a variety of different video games – both on consoles and PC – with cash rewards. The idea of creating a career out of gaming is becoming more accepted, but with that, gamers who play first-person shooter games are also under heavy scrutiny. Earlier this year, politicians pointed to “violent video games” as a contributing factor in mass shootings, to which many pro-gamers responded in opposition.
According to a Pew Research study, “six-in-ten adults say the amount of gun violence in video games contributes a great deal or a fair amount to gun violence in the country today.” Adults over 65, about 82%, say video game gun violence contributes a great deal or a fair amount to the country’s gun violence “nearly double the share of those ages 18 to 29 (42%).”
Culturally, the gaming industry’s acceptance is widely split based on age. The older generations tend to attribute video games to gun violence and an unproductive habit, while young adults are becoming more accepting of esports.
With the gaming industry on the rise economically, its impact on mainstream culture remains something to be observed over the next few years. Nonetheless, the industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.