The rise of esports has been, of course, heavily driven by the rapid expansion of the video gaming industry over the past few decades, raising the profile of the sector to the betting and gaming industry.
This has, however, also raised concerns regarding both video game addiction as well as the space’s connection to gambling, with a review of loot boxes playing a prominent role in the UK government’s overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Appearing on the latest episode of Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show, Cam Adair, founder of video game addiction treatment organisation Game Quitters, outlined his views on why esports have risen in popularity, and also highlighted the importance of treating video game addiction.
Adair observed that one of the major advantages the esports scene has over traditional sports from a commercial perspective is that new games are constantly being produced, meaning the sector can continually refresh itself and gain new audiences.
“I certainly think that we’re headed in that direction,” Adair remarked. “To give some context, I am 33 years old and started gaming when I was 11 years old, about 20 years ago. When I was a player at 18 years old there were still very few professional gaming outlets for people to develop careers.
“There were a few leagues in Korea, specifically around the game StarCraft and there was some Counter Strike. Now there are scholarships for kids in high school and university for them to pursue their dream of becoming a professional player.
“Another aspect of esports which I think is underrated, if you look at traditional sports, you have the big leagues – football, American football, hockey, basketball, globally cricket and rugby and tennis – outside of those major sports, it’s not like a new sport comes along and is on the same level in terms of viewership and economics as those other traditional sports. Whereas Fortnite came out a couple of years ago, and the Fortnite World Cup is one of the biggest esports events globally.”
Moving on the topic of mental health, Adair shared his belief that the leveraging of technology, as well as social media platforms such as Instagram, could better safeguard players.
He pointed to an Instagram hashtag called #Sue, which he argued could provide inspiration for protecting player’s mental health. The hashtag is used by people on the social media platform to discuss suicidal tendencies, prompting Instagram to install a prompt redirecting people who use it to prevention websites.
Adair explained: “I think the gaming industry from a technology standpoint, could be utilising some more of this sort of preventative prompt pattern interrupt, or even just marketing initiatives around supporting players mental health, encouraging peers to speak up and encouraging people to get that help.”
Lastly, Lycka’s guest also touched on the topic of gaming and gambling by professional athletes, with the duo referencing the case of National Hockey League (NHL) player Evander Kane, who has been accused by his estranged wife of betting on his own matches.
He explained; “The Evander kane story really just illustrates the importance of professional athletes, and even amateur athletes, being educated on issues around gambling and gaming around mental health, and really being able to help these athletes who are some of the most talented skilled players in the world, be able to live successful lives outside the game as well.
“Over the last few years, not just with Evander Kane and gambling, but in many professional leagues, there have been stories of teams really struggling with this new phenomenon of gaming, because on the road for instance, gaming is now used as a way to kind of stay in touch with family back home or it’s a way that players spend time together.”