Beyond IT-enabled Gaming: Esports as a "Serious" Form of Digital Play


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date1 Apr 2022


Electronic sports (esports) is defined as a professionalized form of organized video game competition enabled by information technologies and involving spectatorship. It has been one of the fastest-growing and promising forms of digital play, as well as business, with vast popularity worldwide significantly facilitated by the advancement of information technology (IT). Despite being regarded as an emerging digitally-born phenomenon, the essence of esports may be explained not only by IT advancement, but also by the seriousness behind this digital practice. Sufficient seriousness would clearly distinguish esports from other video gameplay practices that are purely casual and fun. In this vein, the seriousness of esports is a significant signature identifying and distinguishing esports from other forms of digital play and digital leisure in the video game realm.

Although seriousness is a critical factor for esports establishment, rationalization, recognition, and development, the seriousness development in esports practices is lagging the business development of esports. In other words, the seriousness of current esports practices is not adequate and conspicuous enough. This is evidenced by the situation that esports is still regarded to be in its infancy with limited participation and acknowledgment as a formal and actual form of sports, despite its increasing popularity as digital entertainment among the audience because of significant IT advancements. This current situation of esports results from insufficient seriousness, hence leading to sportification being less applauded by the public. Moreover, the present insufficient seriousness may, in turn, constrain the comprehensive flourishing of the esports business.

To support the sustainability of esports, this thesis advocates that there is a need to expand the current focus from IT advancement to seriousness development and reinforcement, namely the further development of seriousness for esports. Specifically, this thesis aims to assist esports in further developing its seriousness with the help of IT factors for its sustainable success. With this aim, this thesis primarily focuses on esports, its seriousness, and IT roles in seriousness development. Moreover, this thesis argues that the deepened understanding and further development of seriousness would help the esports industry build up its unique professional identity, which facilitates its refinement as a new form of digital play and even as a new form of sports. In this thesis, three research efforts support the focal interests and articulations about esports, its seriousness development, and the role of IT factors. The first part of the research (i.e., Chapter Two) helps readers establish a comprehensive understanding of esports and its seriousness. The second part (i.e., Chapter Three) identifies an approach possibly facilitating seriousness development for esports, but confirming its inability after the analysis. With these research efforts and further reflection, the third part (i.e., Chapter Four) proposes that encouraging amateur participation, namely developing amateur esports, is a feasible and necessary strategy for esports to achieve seriousness development and sustainable success. Two empirical studies in the third part of the research shed light on the role of IT factors in amateur esports participation. These independent but relevant studies, as a cohesive body of knowledge, jointly contribute to the seriousness development of esports for its sustainable success.

    Research areas

  • Esports, Seriousness, Amateur Participation, IT Factors, Sustainable Success