LAN Parties: Online eSports
'We train three times a week, often for hours on end. It's very similar to playing football or rugby, the same level of dedication exists, it's just for those who don't want to play a physical sport but prefer a mental one.'
Online gaming and LAN (Local Area Network) parties have risen in popularity. The biggest, Dream Hack held twice annually in Sweden, set a new world record in December 2007 for the worlds largest LAN party: a staggering 10,554 computers under a single roof.
During a LAN party computer enthusiasts and gamers meet to play games against each other. Durban is home to one such gathering; the monthly FRAG party. This begins on a Friday afternoon and goes all weekend long. There is no going home to sleep or refresh, so gamers often end up crashing beneath their computers once the effects of the caffeine drinks have worn off.
A wide variety of games are played but a few firm favourites seem to be Choice De Jour for aspiring combat veterans, Call of Duty and Dota, a custom scenario for the popular World of Warcraft games. In addition, console games like Guitar Hero prove popular. Gaming and e-sports in South Africa is still very much in its infancy, although LAN parties around the country are on the rise.
A key issue seems to be tackling the perception that gaming is more of a hobby rather than a true sport. However, considering the sheer numbers of gamers, this is certainly an industry to watch. Electronic games and other forms of online role-playing accounts for roughly 3.8 billion dollars worth of revenue per year in the US, with an astounding 46 million gamers in the US alone.
For such a large market, the landscape of traditional sports is set to change as the technology moves forward.