The defining moments that shaped the esports world

The defining moments that shaped the esports world

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It might be tough to believe, but competitive gaming has a history that stretches back nearly half a century.

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The day? Oct. 19, 1972. The prize? A yearlong subscription to Rolling Stone. The arena? The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab in Los Altos, California, according to the publication. The game? Spacewar, which came out, perplexingly enough, in the 1960s.

It’s tough to see it, but there’s a thread that ties the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics to sold-out League of Legends World Championship matches at the Madison Square Garden in New York, the swell of the crowd at Counter-Strike’s ever-astounding IEM Katowice and $30 million-plus prize pools for Dota 2’s The International. These games, tournaments, players and even fans might seem disjointed, but there’s an intrinsic connection between the trends, moments and movements within the gaming and esports worlds and what we see on our screens today.

Be it QuakeCon in August 1996 or Riot’s fan-monikered IceLAN in May 2021, Upcomer’s mission is to explore the past, present and future of esports. And to look forward, you have to first look back. So here are our choices for some of the most impactful events in esports over the last 30 years. They might not be the biggest plays or most outlandish, drama-packed events, but they’ve all shaped the scene in ways that you might not expect.