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With a sold out arena and $5 million prize pool, DOTA 2 puts eSports on the map

Mario and Luigi may have paved the way for video games popularity, but a whole new set of games and gamers is taking the torch into the mainstream.
Mario and Luigi may have paved the way for video games popularity, but a whole new set of games and gamers is taking the torch into the mainstream.
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

When Rory McIlroy won the British Open Sunday, July 20, he walked away with a cool $1.66 million in prize money.

Not too bad for four days of work.

But today, Monday, July 21, one crew of five video gamers will walk away from the DOTA (Defense Of The Ancients) 2 championships, a professional gaming competition, with over $5 million in prize money.

That may seem like a ridiculous payout for some kids playing video games, but it just goes to show that video gaming has quietly, in the traditional sports fan's point of view, established itself as a serious sport.

Yes, sport.

While video gaming might not require the athletic prowess that some use to qualify an activity as a sport, it certainly fits the criteria of being a sport by many commonly agreeable standards.

For example, competitive video gaming, or eSports as it is called, pits two teams against each other; is as mentally tough and challenging as any other so-called sport, and, in the end, only one winner walks away from the competition.

Additionally, in video game proponents' defense, there's chess.

Chess is not exactly an activity that requires tremendous physical activity, even by the most generous of standards, but the International Olympic Committee has classified chess as a sport.

If chess, and for that matter, even bowling, can be considered sports in the eyes of the most definitive sports authority in the world, then competitive video gaming being officially classified as a sport is only a matter of when, not if.

And while those arguments won't stop the more traditional definers of sports from shunning video games, the debate on video gaming as a sport seems to be a null topic for its growing fan base and the mainstream media, who are capitalizing on its lucrative potential.

In addition to the competitive, by any standards, payout for this year's DOTA 2 competitors, the event is taking place inside a sold out Key Arena, a 17,000+ person stadium once home to the NBA's Seattle Supersonics, and is being broadcast live on ESPN3.

And while it's quite clear that DOTA2 is competitive video gamers' largest step towards putting their sport on the mainstream map, the popularity of the sport didn't just appear out of nowhere.

In fact, competitive gaming has been around since almost the inception of the video game itself, and has slowly but surely gained traction since the formation of Major League Gaming (MLG) in 2002.

Arguably, eSports' popularity has not yet translated into success in more traditional terms of viewership, like TV ratings, but its online viewership growth has been nothing short of remarkable.

In fact, in 2012, MLG's spring competition online viewing numbers beat out the NBA All-Star Game in certain key demographics.

So while you haven't stumbled upon an online gaming competition while flipping through the channels on your television set, this year's DOTA2 championships is clearly a unified statement by gamers that it's only a matter of time.