Professional televised sports such as basketball, golf, soccer, baseball, hockey, and football have gone on hiatus around the world as major events get cancelled due to COVID-19. With athletes forced to stay home, television networks have started broadcasting a different kind of entertainment: Virtual sports.
NASCAR recently decided to postpone races for a few weeks, but a new league has stepped into their place. NASCAR fans and racers have created the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, uniting real world sports with esports in a really interesting way. In the series, top NASCAR racers compete from home with racing simulation rigs equipped with top-of-the-line race wheels, gear shifters, multiple curved monitors, pedals, and haptic racing seats connected to powerful gaming computers. They compete in the premiere motorsports simulation game iRacing against other professional racers using the same skills they have honed over decades of real world experience.
While these races are being broadcasted on television, individual racers now have the unique opportunity to stream their own perspectives on sites like Twitch and YouTube while competing. This has made for a very fun experience for fans, who suddenly can have more personal interactions with their favourite racers.
Although they were slower to adapt than NASCAR, sports organisations such as the NHL and NBA have made deals with ESPN to broadcast esports tournaments. These online events will feature athletes competing against each other in video games such as NBA 2K20 and Madden 2020 to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts.
Even though traditional sporting events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, the vast world of virtual sports and esports continues to attract viewers as sports fans look for new ways to enjoy long-standing hobbies. I think that’s pretty cool.