Say the word "esports" today and it evokes thoughts of Fortnite, MOBAs, famous teams, massive crowds of onlookers, and huge prize pools. It's the newest big thing, and companies are investing millions upon millions of dollars to support it and place esports at the front and center of the public zeitgeist.
But my introduction to esports happened years and years ago, before all the hullabaloo. My introduction started when I saw the iconic match between Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong at EVO 2004.
Observe this legendary match:
Now that you've regained your composure, I'll explain what just transpired.
This clip is from a prominent fighting game tournament (Evo), where Daigo took on Justin in the game Street Fighter 3. It's "best of three" to determine who wins the match, and Daigo (playing as Ken) took the first round while Justin (Chun-li) took the second.
See those green bars at the top of the screen? Those are the player's health indicators. When it's depleted entirely from getting hit enough times by their opponent, that player is KO'd. In the last round, Justin took Daigo's health down to just a single pixel...any stray punch, errant kick, or soft breath would win Justin the match.
Each fighter has an assortment of special and super moves. At that fated moment where Daigo was backed into a corner, Justin unleashed Chun-li's super move, which is basically impossible to escape/block...unless you're Daigo. Daigo went ahead and parried FIFTEEN attacks from Justin before countering with a special move of his own and winning the match!
And the crowd loses their minds!
While esports was already growing and gaining popularity at the time, EVO 2004 was a turning point. Thanks to how easily spread Youtube videos are, Daigo's triumphant comeback against Justin was shared throughout the world, much to the surprise of any and all who witnessed the historic match and helped catapult esports to the juggernaut it is today.