E-sport and video gaming as a new frontier for sustainability

In today’s modern world, sustainability issues and challenges require collaboration of people from all sectors within the society. Especially, during the Covid19 pandemic, people are more relying on digital technology and there is an increase in the number of players as well as viewers for E-sport. The rise in the role of the gaming industry around the world and how it is influencing an individual daily’s life cannot be an ignorance anymore. Whereas, many efforts have been done toward the sustainability issues, there has been little attention on the video gaming industry as a new media frontier to raise sustainability agenda.

Although in the past, the quality and technology of video gaming is not so much evolved like the current one, video games have a huge impact on individual thinking, decision making, and leadership style. You may all have one single game that came into your mind after reading the above sentence and I am sure that you may all remember how long does it takes to open a single PC in the past. But nowadays, technology has become more accessible and evolved which enables a single person to play many different types of games just by clicking on one’s digital device (such as computer, gaming console, and smartphone) 

Impact of Video Gaming and its development

Different types of games influence different development inside the brain. Real-time strategy games like Age of Empire, and StarCraft can influence a positive impact on an individual’s macroeconomic, microeconomic and strategic management skills. While MMORPG games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy can influence an individual’s development in leadership style, teamwork, and organizing people as most of the in-game features like dungeons and raids need to work together to get to the objective. There are also survival games and creative games like Minecraft and Rust where a player needs to find certain material to build defense and work together with other online players to survive in the challenging environment. Battle Royale Games like PUBG, Fortnite, Apex legend, and Call of Duty Modern Warfare have been existed with a huge player population since long before the popularity of the well-known Squid Game Series.

The gaming industry not only improves individual skill development but also it is uniting people around the world as a new universal culture and it is becoming bigger and larger than ever. In terms of revenue from the viewer, the video gaming industry is bigger than the MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS and it is expected to become a $300 billion industry by 2025. One of the biggest reasons video game and E-sport tournaments have blown up is because of the live streaming platform like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and even people are uploading reel videos on TikTok and Instagram. In addition to these platforms, the increase in mobile penetration around the world has supported the video gaming industry to become a multi-billion-dollar business. 

The rise of the revenue in the gaming industry is also accompanied by the rise in the prize pool of the E-sport industry. The total prize pool for winning a tournament is increasing every year. Some global tournament’s price pool of winning and becoming a champion from games like Dota2, Fortnite, League of Legend, and Overwatch are larger than the traditional sport earning. The current largest price pool was over $40 million and it was given at the International 2021: Dota 2 Tournament. Like the traditional sport, the e-sport tournament also brings joy and excitement. As more and more team are participating in the e-sport tournaments, winning or losing at the tournament bring huge publicity in both home country and around the world. For instance, when the Team Spirit win against PSG: LGD, the Chinese team, the Dota 2 tournament in the International 2021, the Russian President Putin send the Congratulation message to the team members, and their team was supported by the people from around the world.

Dark Side of Video Gaming Industry

Even though video gaming become a booming industry, there is still very little attention given to the sustainability issue and the video-gaming industry itself have tons of social problem like labor exploitation, sexual harassment, and discrimination. In the traditional gaming industry, the Crunch Culture forces the game developer to yield unreal-complex video games in a limited set of time. The long working hours and forcing oneself to the limit can toll developer’s mental and physical health. The Crunch Culture is getting worse as in the modern gaming industry. The new business model of the video game is not focusing specifically on selling the game itself, but relying on the microtransactions within the game and it is giving the game developer the endless crunch feeling. For example, games like Apex Legend, PUBG, and Fortnite are giving the game a free-to-play model and relying on the cash flow by selling skins, emotes through microtransactions. 

In addition, since the beginning of the gaming industry, the sexual harassment and discrimination cases can be seen both within companies and streaming platforms like Twitch. The recent Sexual Harassment case from Activision Blizzard has shaken the whole gaming community as Blizzard is the developer of famous games like Overwatch, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft where they banned seriously for sexual harassment within the game. This has also forced to start the unionization of the gaming community. Streamers and gamers started to boycott games from Activision Blizzard, even a person who has put a lot of money on the games like World of Warcraft. 

Gaming for Sustainability

This is a good start to fight against labor exploitation and inequality issue in the gaming industry but this is not enough in fighting for the sustainability of our future. The sustainable development goals cover a wide range of issues for peace and prosperity of humanity and the planet, and fighting against labor exploitation and inequality issue is only part of them. With the development of the digital environment and the evolution of the gaming industry, there are limitless opportunities we can find by utilizing the video gaming industry. In addition, as we have seen that the video-gaming industry play important role in individual skill development as well as it holds a large part of the huge number of populations around the world, video game streaming platform like Twitch and YouTube can be the most effective platform for advocating the sustainability issue. Last but not the least, since the newborn digital generation is more and more relying on the digital environment, we cannot achieve the sustainability issue unless we adapt to the changing environment. We must embrace the video gaming industry as a new frontier to achieve sustainable development goals.

Hein Htet
Hein Htet
ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management Student from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia