What was once viewed by the media as a laughing stock is slowly becoming a phenomenon that could change the course of sports.
Esports is different from traditional sports. First, you don’t need to pay for an NBA League Pass, or any online or cable subscription as games are free to view on Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube.
Second, you also don’t need to be blessed with a genetic code that would make you as tall as LeBron James or Kai Sotto. In fact, you can still live your basketball dreams by playing NBA 2K hoping that a professional esports team like Playbook will acknowledge your skill.
Given the progression of esports and the Filipino’s passion for gaming in recent years, the Philippines is poised to be an esports power.
We have our own public basketball courts in the form of computer shops or simply, in the relative safety of your home with regards to the ongoing pandemic. Given the demanding nature of the current work environment where advanced communication devices are needed, consumers are more inclined to purchase tablets and smartphones, which can also be used by children as a form of entertainment.
It can be concluded that esports is more accessible than any sport in the country. All you need is a reliable internet connection or a gaming station that can be found all over the country.
In fact, our roots in gaming opened more avenues to bring pride to our country. Sure there is the Miracle of Hanoi in 2010 or Jimmy Alapag’s gamep-winning shot against Korea in 2014, or Hidilyn Diaz lifting the entire nation on her back in 2016. But there were also moments in the local esports scene that deserve a nod for being included in the list of Filipino sporting moments that defined the 2010s as they contributed to the eruption of the esports landscape.
In the world of DOTA, the Philippines produced two miracles, the first was in 2015 when Mineski stunned Alliance, giving them a playoff berth in the Frankfurt Major.
But the obra maestra came when TNC made a tear-jerking moment from being a team with extremely limited resources to shocking the world in The International 2016 when they managed to eliminate OG, the heavy favorites to win the biggest tournament in DOTA 2, instilling the belief that we can compete against the best that the world has to offer. The team earned a huge fortune, bringing home $500,000.
And the results don’t just end there as our triumphs kept on compiling since other esports titles have likewise given more avenues for Filipinos to shine abroad. Bren Esports’ triumph in Mobile Legends SEA Cup in 2018 created a new phenomenon that spearheaded the popularity of the Mobile Legends scene in the Philippines. Alexander “AK” Laverez’s second-place finish in the 2019 Evo Japan has given our country the recognition it deserves in the Tekken scene. And the valiant display we exhibited in the 2019 SEA Games has proven that we can succeed across multiple genres.
But it’s not just the accomplishments that fully define the esports industry. The Philippines is also flooded with events, whether small-scale tournaments happening online or in internet cafes, where potential for up-and-coming talent can be discovered, to large-scale events like the Rev Major, Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit, and The Nationals that create opportunities for players who wish to make a statement in the professional scene and raise awareness for Filipinos that there are other esports titles worth venturing.
Even the grassroots system is showing progress with AcadArena, encouraging schools from around the country to establish an esports program, a direct contrast to the collegiate sporting programs of both the UAAP or NCAA that only caters to a few selected schools.
One primary reason why we accomplished a lot in the past couple of years is due to the steady support from the community but also from organizations. TNC’s success in the international stages of DOTA was aided by the knowledge and expertise of established international DOTA analysts Kipspul, Sunbhie, and Heen. ArkAngel shook the Mobile Legends scene by being the first Filipino team to hire a full-time coach in Panda, who is likewise a disciplinarian. Bren Esports experienced a resurgence in 2020 as they hired Ducky, one of the most recognizable and tactically astute coaches in the SEA Mobile Legends scene, complimented by Leathergoods’ obsession with statistics.
With the commitment of most organizations as well as the potential we have, the industry was able to convince even the biggest conglomerates in the country that we can win it all. Just look at how Cignal, PLDT-Smart, Globe, Sterling Global, and other companies have placed their undying support by sponsoring organizations.
Some would argue that the hype surrounding Philippine esports is just a popularity phase similar to what happened to football and rugby. I personally disagree with this statement since our country is filled with internet cafes more than football and rugby fields, enticing more Filipinos to be gamers.
We are slowly breaking the stigma that a career in gaming is only centered on game design and development. This isn’t true anymore since the floodgates are already open for aspiring professional players and influencers.
Given all the factors indicated above I believe that the possibility of us winning the biggest esports tournaments are bigger than winning the FIBA or FIFA World Cup. Given these signs, parents should no longer discourage their children to play video games or mock their migraine with the phrase, “kaka-computer mo yan!” Chances are the migraine-inducing 16 hours of playing may potentially lead your child to being a symbol of Filipino pride.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.