I wasn’t always obsessed with the Olympics as I am today. You see I wasn’t much of an athlete as a kid (hard to tell, I know) with the pinnacle of my sporting achievement being allowed to go to the regional sporting carnival for long jump where I was firmly beaten by nearly every other competitor. Predictably this made me somewhat sour on the whole idea and I found my pursuit of computers and games much more rewarding. Whilst my attendance at the Sydney Olympic Games might not have changed my opinion something strange happened when the next games rolled around: I started to love them.
This was way back in 2004 where I was just starting into my second year of university and working several different odd jobs in order to make some extra cash. I was still working at Dick Smith Electronics back then and of course we set up one of the television sets right in front of the entrance with the Olympics coverage playing non-stop. People would come in and just stop, mesmerized by the athletes competing. Us well trained salespeople would then stand along side them, first and foremost to see if they needed any help, but inevitably we’d just stand there with them and the conversation would always drift towards Australia’s latest achievements. I think it was that sense of universal comradery that made me so fond of the Athen’s games of 2004 and that feeling stayed with me for 4 years.
Then in 2008 the Beijing Olympics came around and I started to feel that same fervour again, a kind of buzz from the entire world focusing on this one event that only occurs once every 4 years. I was hooked and I stayed up until late with my housemate beside me, eagerly soaking up every second of the opening ceremony. I followed Australia’s exploits closely, sharing in the revelry and feeling extremely proud to be part of a country that could excel so much in crafting elite athletes. I stared toying with the lofty idea that I too could one day find myself there (whether via physical eliteness or some other means was not yet clear) and knew that that feeling I had 4 years prior would not be one that would fade in the coming 4.
Indeed whilst I might not have made the 5am starting time for the opening ceremony this year (something I know will haunt me for a while) I did get as much Olympics in as I could whilst it has been going on during the past 2 weeks. Whilst our performance might not have been as expected I still can’t deny just how great our team has been and what a great joy it has been to watch them all this time. As I was stepping out the door this morning I managed to catch a few brief moments of the closing ceremony and it took all my willpower to not shove off work for the day in order just to watch the rest of it and then curl up on the couch, contended.
There’s another thing that every Olympics invokes within me: a deep sense of reflection. Back when the Beijing Olympics was on I wasn’t a blogger, starting this little online repository of my in December of the same year. I was only just engaged to my now wife, I was earning about a third of what I am today and I was still yet to take the longest trip overseas of my life of which I’d document everything right here on this very blog. Going back even further just makes the transitions seem even more incredible and is a testament to why I never plan more than 6 months ahead any more as there is no way I could’ve guessed I’d end up where I am today.
So you might be wondering then what my plans for the next 4 years might be in the lead up to the 2016 games at Rio de Janeiro. To be honest with you I’m not 100% sure as whilst that idea that I could compete at the games hasn’t died (although that might be a symptom of the realisation that anything is achievable with enough hard work, but that’s a post for another day) my recent rediscovery of one of my passions has led me to think there might be another, more viable way to get myself involved in some way. In all honesty it probably won’t be any less work, indeed my level of knowledge about physical fitness and photography are arguably at similar levels, but suffice to say that I’ll be working on both of them seriously and I wouldn’t be surprised if my path turns towards the Olympiads.
Sure it’s still a dream (and a lofty one at that) but what are dreams if we don’t at least try to realise them? I’ve always said to people that once one of your dreams comes true you start to look at your others more seriously and I’ll be damned if this isn’t one I feel is worth pursuing.
It was almost a decade ago when I got my first taste of real competitive gaming. Living 45 minutes outside Canberra meant that online gaming was usually out of my reach, except for that one precious weekend that came around every month or so when ACTGN was on. Coming into this world was slightly alien for me, having been a computer shut in most of my life with no one to share the experience with. The idea then that people would compete against each other for prizes was also rather foreign, but I happily competed even though I was sure I’d never be good enough to actually win anything (although in a team I eventually did, but that’s another story).
After a while I started to hear about tournaments on a more grander scale than just the local events I was accustomed to. The first one I can ever remember hearing about was the World Cyber Games which is in essence the Olympics for video games. It was amazing to think that games had reached that level where international competitors would face off against each other and I can remember catching fleeting glimpses of TV coverage of the events, fantasizing about what it would be like to be there. Then as ACTGN died a slow and painful death so did my interest in the competitive gaming scene and I hadn’t really paid much attention to it since then.
However my recent obsession with StarCraft II started to draw me back to this intriguing world. I had known that the tournament scene had grown considerably since I was last obsessed with it (I had heard rumours of 2 Korean TV channels dedicated to eSports broadcasting, amongst other things) but I really had no feel for how popular eSports was. One weekend though a friend sent me a link to the MLG Pro Circuit site where there was going to be a live broadcast of a StarCraft 2 tournament over the weekend. After tuning in and watching it for all of 5 minutes I was hooked and I’ve been deeply engrossed in the eSports circuit ever since.
Initially though I still thought it of somewhat of a niche phenomena, something that was isolated to StarCraft thanks to its insane popularity in Korean. However as time went on some really interesting statistics started to cross my path that started to change my mind. One of my friends and work colleagues is a big player of the free to play hero defence game, League of Legends. Just recently one of the tournaments, which was broadcast online, pulled in a whopping 1.7 million viewers with a peak concurrent viewership of 210,000. MLG is no slouch either shattering previous eSports viewership records with an astonishing 22.5 million stream viewers and 16,000 people in attendance at the actual event. When compared to traditional sports and TV shows those numbers are extremely impressive and shows just how big the eSports circuit has become.
And that’s when I realised what had awoken in me: my inner sports fan.
Being a stereotypical nerd I had never really been one for sports. There were ones that I enjoyed (I played basketball competitively for a good year or two) but I could never bring myself to watch more than 5 minutes of a game of anything before I became completely bored and wandered off to do something else. Even amongst my fellow geek friends that makes me something of an oddity as the vast majority of them enjoy sports in one form or another. There is one exception to this rule that I discovered back in 2004 and that is the Olympics, which I could watch for hours on end without getting bored in the slightest. I’d hardly call myself a fan of it though (since I rarely follow similar events outside of the actual Olympics) especially once I knew what being a real fan actually felt like.
eSports on the other hand captivates me in a much more holistic sense, seeing me seek out all the information I can get my grubby little hands on. For me the enjoyment is two fold: firstly I believe in doing so will make me a better player of the games that I so enjoy. From my own view it has as well with my StarCraft II game improving dramatically and a short stint of watching some of the Black Ops coverage on MLG had me changing my loadout and promptly kicking some serious ass. Secondly it’s just so damn enjoyable to watch other people play which is, I believe, what attracts sports fans to traditional sports.
Seeing games go from a simple distraction, to an underground culture and now to a mature medium that has a wildly successful competitive scene has been one of the most amazing things for me to behold. It seems that the passion of the gaming community is strong enough to bring what was once a fantastical idea into a reality, and one that’s not just a niche for the dedicated few. I’ve only just begun to tumble down this rabbit hole and I can see myself doing so for a long time to come as my inner eSports awakes from his near decade long slumber.