A Brief History of Esports


The earliest known ‘large scale’ gaming tournament was The Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980. This event attracted over 10,000 participants nationwide, and solidified gaming as a mainstream hobby.


In the 1990’s video game tournaments started to really become mainstream. Nintendo started their ‘Nintendo World Cup Championship’, and blockbuster started their ‘World Video Game Championship’.

The mid 80’s is really where esports started to see a lot of growth, with video game tournaments starting to pop up in magazines and newspapers like ‘Life’ and ‘Time’. A TV show called ‘Starcade’ aired from 1982 to 1984, starred people competing and answering questions for different prizes.

In the summer of 1981 a man named Walter Day created a ‘high score record keeping  organization’ simply called ‘Twin Galaxies’. This organization would go on to help promote video games and publicize its record through the Guinness book of world records, eventually founding the U.S National Video Game team in 1983.

The 90’s was a huge part of gaming as this was the time that esports started to go online. This was around the time when the very first online video games were being created, one of the first, Netrek, could host up to 16 players playing against each other.

As the industry continues to grow, more and more opportunities in esports are arising, with lots of jobs outside of just playing at a high level.

In the 2010’s, a streaming platform called Twitch.tv launched, which allowed regular people to stream themselves playing video games, which really aided in the explosion of esports. Physical viewership has grown rapidly alongside the online viewership. In 2014, the League of Legends World Championship, in Seoul, Korea had over 40,000 fans in attendance!

The earliest known video game competition took place on 19 October 1972 at Stanford University for the game ‘Spacewar!’. (Which you can play for free in your browser here.)Students participated in hopes of winning the grand prize- a year’s subscription to the popular magazine, the rolling stone.

From 1998 onward is when esports really started to explode. There were around 10 esports tournaments in 2000 to over 260 in 2010. This is also when televised sports started to gain serious momentum. In South Korea they even had dedicated channels running gaming content 24/7, such as Ongamenet and MBCGame.

Scott Novis