Pioneering eSport: The Experience Economy and the Marketing of Early 1980s Arcade Gaming Contests

Michael Borowy, Dal Yong Jin


This article sets out to historicize the development of e-sport (organized competitive digital gaming) in the early 1980s using three new conceptual frameworks. We identify e-sport as an accompaniment of the broader embryonic gamer culture, a hallmark of the “experience economy” concept, and as a succession of consumer practices whose development was coterminous with the rise of event marketing as a leading promotional business strategy. By examining the origins of e-sport as both a marketized event and experiential commodity, we see this period as a transitory era bridging different phases in the areas of sports, marketing, and technology, resulting in the expansion of competitive cyberathleticism.


e-sport, professional gamer, arcade, experience economy, event marketing, video games, public events

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