The undisputed superstar in the growing world of eSports said gaming deserved its place in the Olympics — despite a mixed reception at its debut Asian Games.
Faker, real-name Lee Sang-hyeok, has gone from high school drop-out to fame and fortune through eSports, which are now knocking loudly on the door of the mainstream.
He said eSports’ growth potential and popularity among the young made them a must both for the Asian Games, where they were played as a demonstration sport in Jakarta this week, and the Olympics.
“ESports has great potential to become an official sport in the Asian Games, as well as the Olympics,” the bespectacled League of Legends player told AFP.
“ESports are immensely popular among the youth so I think that eSports has far bigger growth potential than any other sport,” he added.
The 22-year-old millionaire is among the biggest and best paid competitors at the multi-sport Games in Indonesia, which have also hosted footballer Son Heung-min and three-time Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang.
Faker, dubbed the “Michael Jordan of eSports”, enjoys similar fame and fortune to professional basketball or baseball players in gaming-obsessed South Korea.
There, multiple TV channels are dedicated to broadcasting competitions, held at large football stadiums to roars from tens of thousands of fans.
The sheer weight of numbers — 25 million players, or half of South Korea’s population — makes professional gaming “just like any other sport”, he said.
But eSports don’t enjoy such acceptance worldwide, and attempts to win a spot at the Olympics, alongside other new sports like skateboarding and surfing, have so far been rebuffed.
“When will (eSports) be included in the Olympics? the simple answer is: I don’t know,” said Kenneth Fok, head of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation chief.
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