eSports in Finland

In the normal process of human thinking, eSports, which is a form of sport competition using video games, cannot be classified as a sport. There are only 56 countries in the world where Electronic Sports are recognized as legitimate, though the International Esports Federation (IESF) actively fights for their global acceptance. The EISF is assured that soon every country on the planet will participate in eSports competitions, since this discipline is gradually gaining in popularity among viewers. There are valid reasons why we need to change our way of thinking about video games competitions and accept eSports as an authentic sport discipline.

The IESF’s enthusiasm for eSports is shared most wholeheartedly in Finland, where people’s favorite pastime appears to be gambling and playing video games. About 80 percent of Finnish people gamble, and wagering on eSports gives them new thrill that betting on other sports does not provide. Aware of gamblers’ interest in eSports betting, many online casinos, or, in Finnish, “nettikasinot,” have begun to include eSports in their arsenal of traditional sports betting products. As elsewhere in the world, Finns engage most in betting on League of Legends and CS:Go competitions. When they do not attend live eSports events, Finns watch eSports tournaments over the internet helped by such streaming services as YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Stream TV.

eSports betting differs from other online games or regular sports betting by its unique payment system. There are two currencies gamblers can choose when betting on the outcome of eSport games: cash and so-called skins, which are virtual items from video games. Cash payments are easy to understand, since they are processed in the same manner they are processed when people bet on regular sports events. Skins are used in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and are connected to the most typical function of the items appearing in them: changing their appearance. Lovers of these games know how differently their in-game avatar, equipment, and weapons can look, when players wish. They can alter the appearance of, say, their knives, making them red, grin, or silver. Their shape can also be changed, though not their functionality. In CS:GO game, skins can be transferred between players, which turn them into a kind of currency, similar to a casino chip, whose colors also differ. Although some other games employ a similar skin system, CS:GO skins are now the dominant currency in the skin betting market.

Apart from betting on eSports competitions online, Finns enjoy playing Electronic Sports. In 2018, Finland was ranked the fifth among eSports playing countries. Finnish young people seriously hone their gambling skills not only at home but also at eSports events, summer camps, and even in colleges. After the Finnish Olympic Committee established eSports as a part of the Finnish sports community in 2019, Finnish Assembly began organizing the bi-annual eSport event at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre, Messukeskus. In this center, the Finnish gaming teams get together to compete with each other. The highest earning Finnish eSport teams are Team Gigantti with earnings above $223,849, IGame.com ($86,225), and Team Finland ($58,000).

Finland also boasts several of the strongest players in the world. The player nicknamed JerAx, whose real name is Jesse Vainika, is Finnish and is ranked the first among 1089 Dota 2 players worldwide and the first among the fifteen Finnish players. JerAx has earned $6,469,215 for the whole Dota 2 professional career. Matumbaman, or, in reality, Lasse Aukusti Urpalainen, comes the second with total earnings of $3,541,536. Another Finnish eSport player is Topias Taavitsainen, nicknamed Topson, who for his entire Dota 2 professional career has earned so far $2,290,122.

Seeing how much the top eSports players earn, Finnish young people also dream of a similar career. The Finnish government is highly sympathetic towards their professional aspirations. In addition to organizing competitions, it also gathers young Finns at the Nordic eSports Academy Bootcamp at KAMP. It is the four-week summer bootcamp designed for casual gamers, rising eSports stars, and professional players. Its general goal is to improve the students’ knowledge of the eSports industry, its history, milestones, and possible future development. The students also have an opportunity to refine their playing skills, bringing them to the professional level. Classes attended by the participants include game play coaching, eSports business coaching, physical wellness coaching, mental wellness coaching, and advanced player testing and analysis. After the completion of the bootcamp, the students receive credits that can be counted towards their higher education.

The Finnish government is so optimistic about the bright future of the eSports that it has even introduced eSports course in the curriculum of some Finnish colleges. Now eSports can be approached scientifically and studied analytically. The college course on eSports includes a module on media training, which teaches students to create impressive media profiles and develop good communication skills.

In the time of the coronavirus pandemic, eSports are undergoing a significant test. Like the online gambling, eSports is one of the industries that has been profiting during these three lean months. The sector’s ability to survive during the pandemic suggests that Finns are right to invest in its development.

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