eSport’s Development in Finland

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People have different attitudes to sports. Some recoil in horror even when they hear such words as “dumbbells,” “kettlebells,” “treadmill,” or even a “jumping rope.” Such people may gladly watch football matches on the television, but there is no force on earth that can make them go jogging in the morning. For others, sports become a door opener to university scholarships and distinguished careers after graduation. Still other people become professional sportsmen, devoting their entire lives to training and competitions. Or people center on their physique and exhaust themselves in gyms so that they can feel satisfied when their bodies approach the ideal.

There are also people who take the middle road. They neither engage in competitive sports nor run nor lift weights in the actuality. Rather, they go in for virtual sports and enjoy sport events mentally. This type of exercise has been made available by the internet and the rapid development of the online gambling industry. With the appearance of online casinos, or as they are called in Finnish, “netticasinot,” platforms for virtual gambling mushroomed and offered a rich choice of sports and other slot machine games to their customers. Many people who can never convince themselves to exercise find pleasure in playing sports-themed slots online, because they feel as though they are taking part in a match or work-out routine.

Other people combine the internet and sports in a different way: they turn gaming into an exciting and profitable sport. This is a new phenomenon in the world called eSport. When people talk about eSports, they refer to the world of competitive, well-organized video gaming. In eSports, competitors from different leagues or teams play against each other in the same games that millions of people enjoy playing at home: League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and Madden NFL, among others. Like teams in other types of sports, teams in eSports have crowds of devoted fans, who attend live events or watch eSports tournaments online helped by such streaming services as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer, Caffeine, Stream TV, and Facebook Gaming.

Not every country officially recognizes eSport as a sport, but floodgates have begun to open for many governments giving support to it. Highly popular with their citizens, eSport is listed among official sports in the US and China. The Asian Olympic Committee (OCA) has even approved it as the official discipline of the 2022 Asian Games in China. At the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, eSports players carried the Olympic fire through Seoul. The Games and Amusement board in Philippines also said “yes” to video games as a professional sport in 2017. Several years ago, France worked on the precise definition of the term “eSport” in a decree law to protect eSport players. In the Netherlands and Sweden, the governments have established eSports associations. Finland then followed suit and also acknowledged eSport as a professional sport, and in 2019, the Finnish Olympic Committee established eSports as a part of the Finnish sports community.

Now Finnish Assembly organizes the bi-annual eSport event at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre, Messukeskus. Here, the Finnish game community gathers to demonstrate their playing skills. Competing teams are also closely watched by thousands of fans, many of whom wish to join professional teams one day. Young Finnish people are attracted to eSports not only because of the international fame that some players enjoy but also because of large monetary rewards available in eSports. Because the industry’s revenue is about 1 billion, prizes in tournaments can reach millions of dollars. This money is divided between the players of the winning teams, which means that top players can make seven figures in a year. Indeed, the world’s number 2 eSport player, Lasse Urpalainen, who is Finnish, has already won 2.5 million euros for his virtuoso performance during tournaments. Many young Finns want to follow in his footsteps and train daily in order to bring their game playing skills to perfection.

The Finnish government is highly supportive of young people’s ambitions and creates conditions conducive to their professional growth. It has even permitted Ahlman College situated in Orivesi to introduce a new program in its curriculum called “eSports Course.” There are many subjects in the program’s curriculum that are considered indispensable for future e-gamers: game-playing, physical training, mental training, and honing analytical skills. Students have theoretical and health lessons as well. The program also includes a module on media training, where young people learn how to build their media profiles and interact with the public.

When young people do not want to receive a degree in eSports, they still have an opportunity to improve their playing proficiency in the Nordic eSports Academy Bootcamp at KAMK. This is a summer course whose objective is to improve young people’s knowledge of eSports industry and bring their game playing skills to professional level. Participation in the course can be credited toward students’ higher education. The bootcamp includes game play coaching, eSports business coaching, physical wellness coaching, mental wellness coaching, and advanced player testing and analysis.

Last year, Telia Company, together with Assembly, launched Telia eSports Series with the aim to promote professional gaming and entertainment for people unfamiliar with eSports. In 2018, Finland was ranked as the fifth-best eSports country in the world. Telia Company, Assembly, the Finnish eSport professional players, and their fans hope now that soon Finland will become a world leader and that e-gaming will be the greatest passion of the whole Finnish nation.

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