Esports is changing Gen Z’s view on traditional sports


@paceuesports on Instagram

Stefanie Giacoumopoulos, Contributor

It’s been reported within the last two years that Gen Z-ers are the least interested in sports in relation to previous generations. In a survey done to identify the level of sports enthusiasts among Gen Z-ers, 21 percent identified themselves as avid fans, 32 percent identified themselves as casual fans, and 47 percent considered themselves not to be a fan in any capacity. Although access to live sports are more accessible than ever before via subscriptions and app services such as ESPN+ and NBC Sports, Gen Z-ers are not participating in sports culture. Instead, it seems they are leaning towards esports and online gaming. 

The younger generation is more interested in activities they can be deeply immersed in. Esports and online gaming offers that. With thousands of content creators live-streaming their video game playthroughs for hours upon hours on websites such as Twitch and Youtube, Gen Z-ers are able to be part of smaller communities and feel a deeper, closer personal connection with the person they are watching. This is known as a parasocial relationship, in which the consumer engages with a media persona in a deeply personal way. Gen Z-ers cannot obtain this type of relationship with an athlete. The most they can do is follow the athlete on social media websites and view their interviews during their respective sports season, but they cannot know the athlete the same way they know the content creators and gamers they heavily engage with on a daily basis. 

Additionally, with the short attention span most Gen Z-ers have, they cannot sit down and watch a three-hour football game. This is why those who do enjoy sports turn to recap videos and sports highlights where they can see in a 60-second clip all the exhilarating moments of the game. Whereas for online gameplay, they are not just watching a live stream. They’re also engaging with the content creator, engaging with other viewers watching the live stream and sometimes playing alongside at home. With one media platform, they receive four different types of stimuli, something they can’t get through live sports. 

Although, it deserves to be said that actually traveling to a sports stadium to view a game in person is an entirely different experience. Within that environment, you are much more immersed in sports culture. The atmosphere of a live game allows you to feel more like a part of the sports community and lets you feel more immersed and engaged with the game. You get excited when the crowd cheers, you get agitated when a play fails and you have the chance to walk around and be more active than you would be at home. Yet this experience cannot be obtained by many due to ticket prices and travel difficulties. On top of that, you can only go to this one game at this specific time in this one place. However online you can view any gaming live stream for free from any platform you have and connect with other viewers. The at-home experience of live sports to online gaming cannot be compared. 

The sports industry is incredibly lucrative and popular, with thousands upon thousands of people attending sports events every year. Whether the participation of Gen Z-ers will actually affect the industry is something that is difficult to predict. Nevertheless, if sports companies have the goal of attracting more Gen Z-ers, they need to put themselves in their shoes. Sports games already exist, so let’s take them to the next level. Have athletes be more interactive with fans to create a larger audience. Bring in popular online gamers to attract their fanbase. It may be difficult to increase the viewership and involvement of Gen Zers, but it’s not impossible if the correct method is put in place.