The debate over whether gaming should be classified as a sport is one which will probably rage on forever.

For the record, I think if darts and snooker are considered sports, esports can be too. The hand-eye co-ordination displayed at the highest level of competition is certainly a form of athleticism, if not in the traditional sense.

However, I would argue that we often get bogged down in the details and the fact is esports is growing in popularity at a rapid rate and as a form of highly-skilled and lucrative entertainment, it will most likely continue to do so.

Some who have been around a little longer than me, the older generation, when they hear gaming, think of going to an arcade to play Pac man. Gaming has come a long way since those very basic days.

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Comparing Pac man to what esports competitors are playing now is like comparing the Tesla to a horse and carriage.

With the reactions, teamwork and strategic thinking required to make it to the elite level, gamers put in hours upon hours of practice.

For some it pays off in a big way - just look at some of the prize pools from recent tournaments.

Last year's The International 2018: Dota 2 Championships broke the record for a total prize pool at an esports event with $25,532,177 USD. The winners, Team OG, took home US$11,234,158.

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Rotorua esports competitor Daniel Pinkham has the need for virtual speed

In terms of viewership, based on hours watched on popular streaming websites Twitch and YouTube, that event was the second most popular with 52.8 million hours watched (according to escharts.com).

ROTORUA DAILY POST | Sport
24 Dec, 2018 6:00am
4 minutes to read

The most popular event last year was the League of Legends World Championship which collected 74.3 million hours of viewership.

Team Invictus Gaming, of China, celebrate winning the final of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship. Photo / Getty Images
Team Invictus Gaming, of China, celebrate winning the final of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship. Photo / Getty Images

Judging by those numbers, whether you consider esports a legitimate sport or not, there is certainly a global appetite for it.

Gaming is also becoming more and more worthy as a career path. There are generally two paths for gamers to choose between, while some do a mixture of both. As well as the competitive athletes, there are fulltime streamers.

These streamers generally have a small screen showing their face while the rest of the screen is filled with whatever game they are playing. The most popular are usually those who excel at a game and can entertain purely through their elite skill level and then there are those who are more laid back, usually funny, and are as much an entertainer as a gamer.

They make money through donations to the stream, generally viewers can donate a certain amount and ask the streamer a question - a chance to interact. Others donate purely to support their favourite entertainers.

Popular Battle Royale game Fortnite took off in the last couple of years and many streamers saw the opportunity to make more money. Those who got in early were laughing.

According to escharts.com Fortnite was the most viewed game on Twitch in 2018 with a whopping 1.36 billion hours watched. League of Legends was second with 986.87 million.

The total prize pool for the upcoming Fortnite World Cup is $100 million USD.

This week I wrote about Rotorua's Daniel Pinkham who is competing in the Project CARS 2 - a motorsport simulation computer game - ANZ Championship which is being broadcast live on Sky Sport every Thursday night.

Daniel has been involved with motorsport in real life as well and I think he made a good point when he said the computer version gave more people the opportunity to have a go without the financial pressure of buying and racing an actual car.

For those who are not gifted at traditional sports such as rugby and netball, there is now an avenue to compete at the highest level, in front of massive crowds and earn good money. Rather than debate its worthiness as a sport, I say we open our arms to esport and enjoy the ride.