It Started With Pong

It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or how much money you possess—competition knows no bounds. It can come in the form of a card game, a race around the house, or an organized sport, but the constant remains, you play to win the game! America has long been rich in sports, toting countless professional leagues, superstar athletes, and brand sponsorships bringing in millions of dollars in revenue.

Baseball has been lauded as America’s favorite pastime since the 1800’s—which there is no denying—but times have changed and so has the public’s interests. You would agree we’re in a digital world now, correct? With that, we have digital competition. It started with Pong—rudimentary in nature, but instantly engaging. It planted the roots for digital competition, only to lead to more intricate and difficult games—first Pac-Man, then Super Mario, now League of Legends. As society dictates a change in our topical interests, we adjust our competitive interests. So while America may already have a favorite pastime, it shouldn’t come as a shock when eSports are the future.

Change is inevitable, but we all learn to adapt. The majority of the things we’ve grown used to doing one way have either been modified or changed completely due to technological advances. To communicate, we send an email rather than mail a letter. We do our taxes and pay our bills online now rather than write a check. Everything we do in life has shifted to an online forum. So why does it surprise everyone that competition has moved online as well? We used to challenge our friends to arcade games like Pac-Man or Pong, but now we play Xbox or PS4 online against others from around the world. Winners, losers, and the quest to be the best remain constant—competition has simply evolved.

We may not all be at the point of accepting gaming as traditional sport, but the movement and momentum gained over the past several years shows it was already here. Let’s begin with a simple fact—we all operate in a digital world these days. Our youth—and future—are immersed in modern technology before they’ve taken their first steps! We’ve entered the iPad Generation, or better yet, The Technillennials—a generation where children no longer read paperback books, but instead swipe through an iPad. They are the successors to the millennial generation, born after the year 2007, where iPads and other technologies became an integral part of their upbringing.

It’s not even about the reading anymore, but the physical interaction with the story—swiping pages left and right, or finding Waldo with a tap on the screen. My three-year-old son can already fully operate an iPad on his own now, finding and using his apps with no trouble at all. Their technological learning curve has already been cut dramatically from the prior generation. Unknowingly, we’ve prepared our future to become digital savants. I don’t think we should stop urging children to play outdoors and develop real-world skills, but we shouldn’t suppress the skills we’ve helped them acquire.

As kids, we’re taught to follow our dreams. My mother always told me, “No dream is unattainable. No challenge is insurmountable.” I dreamt of owning my own business and was afforded the opportunity to do so. If a child wants to pursue their dream of becoming a professional gamer, they should have that opportunity as well. The sport, once thought of as a distracting hobby to many, is finally being look at as an opportunity.

That “distraction” is now a very real part of kid’s education, as schools are beginning to offer gaming classes as part of the curriculum. A high school in Norway has already started offering gaming as an alternative to physical education, while UC-Irvine recently announced they’d begin offering scholarships for their new gaming program in addition to building a state of the art gaming facility. People always say we should invest in our future. When the future projects $1.9 billion in global gaming revenue by 2018, that investment in education will pay for itself.

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