Struggling for recognition: esports in the EU

By Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka. Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka comes from Poland. In 2020, she graduated with honours from the Beijing Language and Culture University with a BA in Chinese Language. Currently she is interning at the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw (Poland) as a part of her Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Euroculture at University of Strasbourg (France) and University of Groningen (the Netherlands). LinkedIn.

What are esports? Are they a sport at all? It is just for fun, right? As video games become increasingly popular, a new profession has appeared: esports player. Nevertheless, they, like us, are ceaselessly confronted with these and many other questions. However, there is no doubt that esports are getting more and more visible. 11% of Europeans watch esports at least once per week. 50% of the European population between 6 and 64 years old play video games. Women constitute 47% of all players. The size of the European video game market increased by 22% in 2020 and reached €23.3bn. The numbers speak for themselves. And these figures translate into good moments to make our world a little better. Did you know that girls who play video games are 3x more likely to choose a STEM-related profession compared to girls that do not? The video games sector is constantly growing, creating new opportunities for Europeans. Esports could be the future of international sports competitions in Europe and beyond. So what is the stance towards esports in the European Union (EU)?

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Why the EU should pay more attention to video games

By Bryan T. Bayne

One hundred young men rent an old Neogothic castle in southern Poland for a weekend to dress like medieval noblemen and play games. It sounds like the plot of some B-list horror movie, but it was part of a video game competition in 2019. It is one among many examples of the growing influence of video games on European culture and youth.

Video games have become a huge industry in Europe. The EU market is estimated to be worth over €21 billion in 2020, having grown 55% since 2014. The EU is home to some of the biggest companies in the world. In 2020, CD Projekt Red briefly became the most valuable company in Poland and released a game that—despite much controversy—sold 13 million copies at a €60 price tag each. The continent’s second video games giant, the French Ubisoft, is worth some €8.6 billion, four times as much as AirFrance-KLM.

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The European Union funds video games… for science!

By Bryan T. Bayne

Humanity collectively spends billions of hours on video games each year. Most would brush off such figures as mere trivial entertainment, but Attila Szantner, a web developer, and Bernard Revaz, a physics researcher, saw in them one of the world’s greatest untapped resources. If only a tiny fraction of the time spent on video games could be devoted to science, researchers might quickly find the answers to thorny questions, they reckoned.

Enter Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS). Founded in 2014 by Szantner and Revaz, the company connects video game developers to researchers who seek assistance from citizen scientists. The premise is simple: a background in science is not needed to adequately perform mundane tasks such as pattern recognition or image classification, therefore, by gamifying such tasks, the huge gaming community may contribute thousands of hours to assess large data sets, considerably speeding up scientific research. The project has garnered the attention of several universities, game developers, NGOs, and even of the European Union, which has provided over 570,000 EUR in funding.

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