Thousands of fans stuffed into the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne this weekend to watch the best in their field take part in an All Star tournament.
Thousands more stuffed into special screening sites across Australia.
However, it was not the traditional sporting contest they were watching – it was the video gaming international tournament called League of Legends.
According to organizers, it was the biggest eSports tournament ever hosted in Australia, and is part of the thriving video gaming industry.
19 year-old Aaron “ChuChuz” Bland from Sydney was among the contestants. The time he spends online video gaming competes with the amount of time he studies or sleeps.
Concerned about being labeled a “gamer nerd,” he lied to teachers and friends about his visits to competitive video gaming tournaments, saying that he was going to play in squash tournaments. Now his passion is his profession.
eSports hits the big time
Along with Starcraft, Counter Strike and Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends is one of the biggest games in the professional video gaming world.
Each month, about 67 million people play the game and, with as many as 40% of spectators not actually playing the game, it is now an entertainment franchise giving Hollywood a run for its money.
Over 16 million minutes of streamed gameplay have been clocked up on internet video gaming platforms.
The net worth of the video gaming industry surpassed that of the music industry last year by $20 billion, attracting big sponsors like Coca Cola and Red Bull.
The inevitable growing pains that occur when amateur sports turn pro have plagued eSports.
Drug testing for performance enhancing drugs such as Aderol are already being done in some leagues, and a match-fixing scandal shook Korean eSports this year seeing 12 Starcraft players arrested. It led Chris Smith to form the Australian eSports Community to informally unionise in order to protect players’ rights.