When one thinks about competitive esports, a few memories spring to mind.

This writer has distinct memories of getting their clan to the top of the Team Warfare League table in 'Battlefield 2142' and staying there for over a year as well as endless scrims in 'Call Of Duty 4' and getting to the top of another amateur league.

There was the initial hunt for sponsors for clan jerseys and the incredible excitement when the request was granted served as validation.

It created a sense of what we were doing was important and that now no one could deny that our small Irish team was going places.

The real struggle, as it turns out, was getting Irish audiences at large on board.

In the early days of esports, the industry was fighting for recognition.

People on the inside knew this wasn’t just a fad - hell, it wasn’t going to be big, there was a sense the whole thing was going to be absolutely massive.

And they were right: the gaming industry is now bigger than music and movies combined; figures from 2021 show that there are over 3.2 billion gamers worldwide, whether through streaming and content creation or competitive play.

Despite Ireland regarding itself as the hub of European tech, Ireland still has not embraced the possibilities that gaming offers like so many other countries have.

Enter An Post.

An Post have thrown their weight behind Irish gamers, to great effect.

It is incredibly vital that Irish insitutions like An Post have taken the first brave step into this world, and by lending their gravitas and weight to the gaming industry, it is a validation of our beloved pastime.

An Post Money Mate have teamed up with Legion Esports to sponsor their weekly 'FIFA' and 'Fortnite' tournaments.

There is now finally the chance to put your skills to the test and gain a bit of money and prestige to go along with it.

With the help of An Post, a career in gaming, long held as a fantasy of pretty much any school kid in the 90s or 2000s, is now a tangible reality.

Being the first to do something is always a leap of faith, and An Post have surrounded themselves with people who really know gaming to make sure they contribute in a meaningful way to our community.

They don’t want to show up, put ads in front of us and hope we click and download.

They are working with us to create a tournament open to everyone, for the benefit of everyone, and want to be an integral part of that community and helping it grow.

In a show of good faith, An Post have shown they take the project seriously by offering financial incentives.

An Post routinely sponsor competitions and have offered almost €10,000 over the last few months in prize money alone.

It is one thing for An Post to offer just prize money however; it is an investment from a brand that is recognised and respected across the nation.

It is a vote of confidence for an underappreciated community, a community made up of people with an incredible passion for what they do.

In a sense, is is akin to An Post saying "we know you’re there, we like what you’re doing, and we want to help”.

An Post also acknowledge there is a lot to learn about gaming, and to
make sure they’re doing the best they can for us they have teamed up with Legion.

Similar to how this site is dedicated to gaming, An Post has shown real dedication to Legion.

As well as the tournament, An Post are sponsoring Legion Creators, helping up and coming Irish streamers, YouTube personalities
and esports stars with financial support and streaming & gaming equipment.

Esports has become big business globally - Ireland can't afford to lag behind

To loop back to the start of this piece, in those heady days when esports was struggling for legitimacy, the difference now is that a ubiquitous, well known, Irish name like An Post is supporting the cause.

In the run-up to his re-election, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wants to make “France THE country of video games”, as a hub for both game development and esports, and wanted esports to be present at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

By his own admission, Macron isn't a gamer, but he recognises that it is the hobby of choice for many young people.

We wish we could say the same for Ireland.

While Ireland possesses some big-name developers like Romero Games having a presence in Galway, and Riot Games and 2K having offices in Dublin, the potential is there for Ireland to do so much more.

Gaming by its nature is much more accessible than the sports Ireland prides itself on with a much lower cost of entry and the ability to train and practice regardless of the weather, time of day and the availability of facilities.

There is one major missing piece of the puzzle - credibility.

The general public does not believe there is anything to gaming, it’s not a valid career choice, you can’t get anything from it, and it for people who don’t want to go outside.

This is a mindset not just exclusive to gaming - the pandemic has revealed that the arts sector is something that is looked down upon by the masses despite it entertaining them during lockdown.

Gaming saw a massive boost during lockdown, and the opportunity was there to rethink the role gaming could play within the modern Irish arts sector.

Like most opportunities presented to us in the wake of the pandemic, the initiative was spurned.

Ireland is very quick to praise itself for being a champion of the arts, but the attitudes of certain sectors of Irish society, and particularly Government departments that oversee the arts treat the idea of a strong arts scene as a folly.

To most Irish adults, their knowledge of gaming starts and ends with 'Grand Theft Auto' and possibly 'Call Of Duty'.

It is incredibly vital that Irish institutions like An Post have taken the first brave step into this world, and by lending their gravitas and weight to the gaming industry, it is a validation of our beloved pastime.

Gaming is more than just a hobby for so many of us - it’s a passion.

An Post joining the fight to make gaming as recognised and respected as the GAA or the music of U2 will be a long battle, but we could not have asked for a better ally.