Why are esports captivating?


Leinonen, K. (2019). Why is electronic sports captivating?, Oulu University of Applied Sciences [ACCESS}


Electronic sports has seen a substantial growth in terms of money involved, number of spectators and of course new teams and organizations are being established around the world. A record number of people every year play and spectate electronic sports in different ways. Electronic sports organizations, clubs and event organizers are interested in what has made electronic sports such a phenomenon and why hundreds of millions of people are interested in it and watch it. Because of this it is important to understand what makes people interested in electronic sports in the first place and what keeps them engaged as spectators. This thesis explores what motivates and drives people to spectate electronic sports. The two main focuses are to find out why people for the first time decided to watch electronic sports and what motivates them to continue following electronic sports in the future. My two research questions are how people start watching electronic sports and why do they watch it and what affects their enjoyment. Research method for this thesis is qualitative research. Data was collected from six semiconstructed interviews. By interviewing the participants instead of using questionnaires the data collected was able to give more insightful information and the participants were able to tell the answers in their own words. From the data collected four themes emerged that affected the participants motivation to spectate electronic sports. The four themes were gaming background, aim to learn, social experience, and atmosphere. In most cases the participants had previously played the games they followed. Their gaming background contributed in them starting to spectate electronic sports in the first place. The need to
evolve and learn as a player was strongly present in the data. Social and community aspects were also present in the data as people tended to watch events and games with their friends. The atmosphere produced by the event was important for the enjoyment for both event goers and those who spectated online. Electronic sports has become an important aspect of lives of millions of people. In the same was the value of electronic sports has grown for companies who host these events. It is crucial for them to understand why their customers behave in the way they do.

The Data

6 semi-structured interviews of ages 18-29 years.


“Gaming background was one of the main reasons why the participants initially started to spectate electronic sports”

“Learning and developing gaming skills were important for many of the participants.”

“one participant said that as a child he would dream of meeting the footballing superstar Lionel Messi but now he would much rather meet his Rocket League idol. “

“the social experience is an important factor both in starting to spectate electronic sports and continuing to do so”

“Over half of the participants thought that the quality of the production both at the event and online broadcast greatly affected their enjoyment of the electronic sports broadcast.”

Our Take on it

“This is an undergraduate project with limited data, but some of the findings are pretty interesting. First, it finds that being an avid gamer is crucial to becoming a watcher. Second, watchers expressed a desire to learn. Third, they want to be entertained by people who are better than themselves. Fourth, a high quality production experience was of interest. Finally, the desire for socialising was present among watchers. While this data is limited, it’s a good starting point for some wider analyses.” Professor Andy Miah

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