There once was a time when video games were considered “just for kids,” when games were considered a frivolous pastime for the lazy and sedentary. That time is gone. What is the exact opposite of sitting on a couch with controller in hand, blasting away at virtual enemies until early morning hours? Chances are, the X Games would be the antithesis of video games for many. The annual sports event for the extreme, the X Games features some of the most rigorous and athletic displays of talent in modern entertainment from skateboarding to BMX and snowboarding to skiing. Even a decade ago, the thought of gaming and extreme sports merging at a common showcase for lavishly talented would have been absurd. Times are certainly changing, though, and games are now integrated within our culture in ways that were previously unimaginable.
Since 2014, the X Games and Major League Gaming (MLG) have partnered up to bring competitive gamers to storied competition. Call of Duty: Ghosts started it off, followed by Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and most recently, at the 2016 winter games, Evil Geniuses took up a $15,000 prize and a genuine X Games gold medal. Does that mean that video games are held in the same regard as traditional sports? No, they are not, but that doesn’t really matter.That’s not the point. There’s room for both sports and eSports, and if ESPN’s decision to launch and maintain their own eSports coverage is any indication, the market crosses over. The people who are gearing up to watch the NBA and NHL playoffs are the same ones who will fire up their game consoles during halftime to battle their buddies in a match of Call of Duty.
The video game industry has surpassed the film industry in terms of yearly revenue. Nearly half of the U.S. population plays games regularly, 80 percent of households have a dedicated gaming device, and the average player is thirty-five years of age according to a 2015 study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).
However, the most profound indicator of video games infiltrating mainstream culture is arguably the transition from just playing games to actively engaging in watching others play games. The partnership between the X Games and MLG is perhaps one of the most intriguing developments within both industries. For the sports event it means that they are acknowledging that traditional sports are not alone anymore for mass viewing pleasure. For the video game industry, this signals the growing trend of the lucrative business permeating the mainstream in ways that wouldn’t have been possible until recent years.