The People v. Esports
Esports, the ever growing new found sport of competitive gaming that is surrounded by controversy. A sport that is denied the credibility to be a sport by society outside of the primary fan-base. It can very well be considered a sport and is on the track to becoming one. But many are just not willing to give up the stereotype that video gaming holds in society. Which is why proving its credibility to be on par with say basketball or football is so important to the community that supports competitive gaming. Its about breaking those stereotypes created by the media that have been forced on gamers for so long and molding a new beginning to the world of professional sports.
Competitive gaming or eSports without a doubt is emerging into the professional sports outlet. So much that it can easily compete with other big brand sports like Baseball and Football viewership wise.It has even been predicted to overtake the NHL in viewership by 2018 according to ESPN in an article by Ben Casselman. Esports has been on the rise in North America for the past 4 – 5 years, with constant growing spectator counts and even now an entrance into some cable television networks, networks like ESPN and TBS both feature eSports on their platforms and with the growth of spectators at these major eSport events “Resistance is Futile” (Casselman) and would hinder growth.
An on looker from the outside of this very large community may believe that this is a brand new trend. But when compared to the rest of the world such as Europe and Asia we see that this trend or as many supporters may say, new found sport, has been around since the early 2000’s. Countries like South Korea have an outstanding communal following to the sport. They’ve had several broadcast stations dedicated to gaming tournaments and events.
At the same time the public population within these countries respect the image of the players behind the sport of competitive gaming. These foreign populations have such a different perspective on the matter. They respect these players and competitions to the same level of professional chess players and some eSport athletes are regarded to be at the same status of fame to their Olympic athletes.
You then turn your sights over to the Americas and there’s this sudden drop of respect. How is it that after almost 16 years of success in Europe and Asia competitive Gaming is finally scratching the surface of mainstream media in the states. Even with its growing popularity in NA it still seems difficult for the population to garner that respect needed to help flourish the game
An example viewpoint of one demographic learning about eSports for the first time. This evidence comes from the HBO documentary show, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. On this episode they reported on the growing spectacle of eSports and how young gamers are becoming millionaires off of playing video games, and that there is this new breed of cyber athlete. At the end of every episode they hold a short round table discussing the topics presented during the show. The reporter who lead the piece was at this round table as well as her other colleagues debating the fact of whether or not competitive gaming could be considered a sport or not. The lead reporter supported competitive gaming and truly believed it could be a sport, but then her colleague rebuttal-ed with a statement that shocked me, she went on to say “My issue with this is, its still not a sport its a game it just cant be a sport they are playing video games.”
The key word in her statement that turns heads is “game”. Just thinking logically for a minute, what exactly are basketball players or baseball players playing? Is she saying that all sports are not games and are only recognized as sports? Is running around a court passing a ball to teammates not a game? The ignorance is very prominent within some older generations, that said everyone at this round-table was above the age of 40, which is understandable since this is a very new and meta activity that is surrounded by younger generations. As this round-table conversation progressed a question was then asked “Do you have the statistics of how many of the eSport spectators have attended Star Trek conventions?” in response one replied “I’m sure there is a fair amount of overlap.” It’s the misinterpretation and prejudgments that competitive gaming and just gaming in general receives from the public that enrages this community and hinders its growth. The more validation the fans of eSports receive the more this new found sport can grow viewership wise and fan base wise.
Media outlets like CBS, HBO (previously exampled) and TMZ in the past all have incorrectly defined or disrespected the sport of competitive gaming and have also given it a image that they believe fits their agendas. Another example of one of these instances comes from none other than TMZ. TMZ goes to the extent of writing a very ignorant and biased statement in the description portions of one of their YouTube videos titled: Rick Fox – eSport jocks are Just like NBA Players…Real athletes “Question — What do pimply-faced geeks who play video games all day have in common with the 6’8″ demigods who roam NBA courts on a nightly basis???” In this video they interview Rick Fox owner of Echo Fox (eSport Franchise). He was also a former NBA star for the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers. And instead of being serious about the interview and showing the public that they can be open minded they mock Rick Fox and basically say “hey everyone its cool to make fun of people who play video games.”
Now it’s fair to assume that TMZ learned their lesson after the backlash they received from the eSport community for writing something like that. Well in less than a month TMZ uploads another interview with the same person, Rick Fox, and instead of fixing their mistakes they just repeat the cycle. The next video TMZ uploads titled: Rick Fox- eSports Will Overtake NHL In 2 Years!! | TMZ Sports goes onto writing “Beware NHL fans … Rick Fox says your sport will be overtaken … by nerds … ’cause the “League of Legends” team owner thinks eSports is primed to take hockey’s place as the fourth major sport in the U.S. in just TWO YEARS!” For a news/media outlet to set specific physical standards for sports players and to doubt the growth of something that is very much on its way to becoming a major mainstream outlet, just goes to show how ignorant really anybody can be but also opens eyes to who is at the front of our news world. Can this trend end? will the image that society gives videogame playing ever change? If our media cannot accept this new outlet then the casual viewer will have no desire to follow eSports or learn about it.This constant cycle of assumptions and misjudgments that the eSport community receives just doesn’t end.
This then brings me to the point of, what makes sports so valuable in the first place? What effects do sports have on our society? Well one can say that sports are here for exercise and is a great means to keep a healthy body and mind, which is true, But what really makes it valuable is its social aspect. Sporting events bring thousands of people of all cultures together all at once. There are stadiums that can hold thousands of people, and are dedicated to sporting events in major cities.When there is an important match with great teams these stadiums sell out. Of course this isn’t breaking news, this has been going on for hundreds of years.
Millions of families all around the world dedicate the time to sit down with their family and friends at home to watch a major sporting event on T.V. People around the world buy merchandise to represent their home teams or players. Schools around the world have their own sports programs so that students can figure out their potential in the world of professional sports. Sports creates communities. Communities of people that are passionate and engaged, communities that will do anything to support their brand of choice.
Community and fan base is everything when it comes to sports. A fanbase is what can make or break it. And of course other than a fan-base professionalism and extreme consistency in the skill of the athletes are other factors that can help in its success.
Having an activity that our whole world can take part in is something really special. But if an entire culture is going to misinterpret the underlying definition of what a sport really is and what it adds to society then eSports may stay stagnant.
When and how exactly did North American culture turn these fun games of basketball and football into professionally branded sports? Well, soon after the creation of these sports back in the late 1800’s, the creation of leagues rose and opened up the gates to the world of professional sports. With their own rules and regulations they could turn a fun game to play and pass time, to something that can be considered a career, grant fame, fortune and set a standard of living that is now portrayed as the perfect life to regular society.
Esports just like professional sports started with its creation of leagues. Leagues that go by the name of Electronic Sports League (ESL) and League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). These are just two of the larger brand leagues that come along with their own rules and regulations. Which is no different from how the NBA or the NFL originated. Which is just another hint thrown at eSports of how big it is becoming.
What makes basketball and football so popular in North America is its ability to create rivalries between fans and players stemming off of the fact that each team represents a state or city. Which then causes an increase in enthusiasm and support for teams. Esports on the other hand is on the international level of fan bases. Where organisations can represent multiple countries rather than just national states. Even though there is that slight difference eSports can also still hold that same effect where fans create rivalries and support their countries of choice. Wherever there may be competition lies the public to decide who they want to support or favor.
Some questions may be popping up as to how eSports is so accessible to the public since it is gaining so much popularity? Well as presented earlier eSports has been just recently scratching the surface of live television and are being presented on channels like TBS and ESPN. But What really kindled the fire to the growth of competitive gaming is live streaming. What started it all for the eSports scene is a website called Twitch. Twitch allows anybody from anywhere to broadcast a game of their choosing over the internet to anybody tuning in around the world.
After some time those leagues that were discussed, ESL and LCS, caught on to the huge trend that is Twitch. So what better idea than to create official channels for their league and broadcast these professional matches to the ever expanding gaming community. Well it worked, now some of the biggest eSport tournaments are broadcast-ed on Twitch. With some of these tournaments breaking millions of concurrent viewers.
At the same time these leagues are being slowed down by the public image, and is stopping them from expanding or becoming part of more cable television channels. Society has had a set image on video games for a long time now and North American media has played a major role in the creation of that image. But blaming people for not understanding or accepting something they have been taught to hate is counterintuitive.
Now getting into the grit and details of competitive gaming. Esports is known around the world by millions of gamers. Whatever favorite video game one may have possibly lies a competitive eSport scene underneath it. Some of the largest brand competitive games out now are Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Each consisting of 5 vs 5 player matches where teams have to communicate, use tactics and quick reaction times to defeat the opposing team. Those leagues that were previously discussed (ESL, LCS) represent these games stated. LCS is an exclusive league for league of Legends and ESL has events across all three of these games.
League of legends and Dota 2 are in the genre of a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). In these games each player has to choose a fighter from a roster of over 100 fighters. Each fighter has its own abilities. Players have to choose wisely as the character they choose may be the deciding factor to a loss or a win. These 5 vs 5 matches then start and it is a race to see who can destroy their opponent’s base first. Some games can last up to over an hour and some can be 30 minutes depending on how badly a team is losing. League of Legends and Dota 2 resemble strategy games that are viewed from a top down perspective.
The next game on the list is Counter Strike: Global Offensive or CSGO for short. CSGO is in the First person shooter genre of eSports similar to the ever popular Call of Duty but far from it. In this game there are no character choices, every player is on a level playing field. At the start of a match every player starts out with $800 of in game currency that they use to buy equipment or weapons. This is a round based game first to 16 rounds wins. Teams start out on either the counter terrorist side of the match (defense) or the terrorist side (offense). The terrorist objective is to successfully kill all counter terrorists or successfully plant and detonate a bomb in one of two spots on the map. The bomb is given to the terrorist team at the beginning of each round. The counter terrorists objective is to either kill all terrorists or defuse the planted bomb. Each round can last up to 2 minutes or even miraculously 15 seconds. A point is then given to the team that successfully completes their objective and again first to 16 points wins.
All whilst the game is going on both teams have to manage and properly use the economy system that is given to them. Winning rounds earns a team a certain amount of in game money. Losing rounds earn a team a certain amount of money, killing enemies earns players a certain amount of money. So not only are players trying to execute certain positional strategies onto their opponents but are also forced to keep track of their economy and understand when they can buy equipment and when they cannot afford to buy the necessary equipment for the round.
Even on top of that a player must be able to keep calm whilst under heavy pressure, have precision accuracy with a mouse and keyboard and have the ability to stay focused and keep that constant communication going with teammates. eSports are no joke and the skill level just keeps increasing. After reading this information hopefully one can make the observation that maybe it does belong in the sports mainstream
A concept that gets lost in translation when explaining eSports to someone is the skill level required to become a professional player in eSports. An example skill needed is consistency. It can span from having consistent and fresh strategies used in game to having consistent mouse or controller accuracy in game. these are skills that one absolutely needs to become apart of the top. These matches last a long time and after a long period of time a player can become fatigued, which can cause minuscule inconsistencies that can cost the outcome of a match.
Yes millions of people can play these games competitively/recreationaly and one can assume they are far above average but there is much more to becoming a pro than just having individual skill. After watching a video on the pro CSGO team “Cloud9″ giving tips on how to quickly get into the professional scene, one of them summed it up nicely” if you are just starting to play video games in general, then it will take a longtime, by a longtime I mean up to 4 years. if you already have a background of playing similar games to the game you want to go pro in then it can take up to 2 years or even shorter. It isn’t easy for new players to just suddenly go pro”. These pro players are within the top 1% of the games population just randomly hopping on and being the best player in a casual match doesnt mean yo can go pro. Teams recruit players who do have that skill but also have the right mindset for team play. Teams designate roles to their teammates and if a team is recruiting, they will look for somebody who can fit that role and can mesh well with the team.
Another concept that gets misinterpreted with people from outside of this world, is that not every competitive video game is set up like these three games explained. Each video game is like its own sport. So one can make the comparison that CSGO is football, League of legends is basketball and Dota 2 is professional swimming. These are not literal comparisons. it is just a means of expressing that there are multiple sports within eSports. that each has their own rule sets, own game mechanics and in game features that make them different from each other.
Moving onto the glaring elephant in the room. How can eSports possibly be considered a sport? The obvious argument that people have held against it is its lack of physical exertion. Which is true there is not as much physical endurance needed to compete in eSports. First lets look at other well known sports. What about bowling? Yes in bowling you need to put strength behind the bowling ball when sending it down lane. But at the end of the day its not about the physical strength it’s more about technique and keeping that technique consistent.
Then look at poker another known sport that requires no physical exertion, A sport that to some do not consider to be a sport. But in fact they would be wrong, in actuality Poker has been officially accepted as a mind sport by the International Mind Sports Association back in 2010. We now have discovered that there can and are categories of sports separating the physical ones from the less physical and more brain powered ones.
Obviously attempting to credit eSports as a physically demanding sport would not be logical. Yes the physical sports and eSports hold their similarities rule-set wise, but it cannot be placed into the physical sport category. Like poker or chess it should be placed into the mind sport category where it is still considered a sport and can hold that same social value that poker and chess has in society. Because right now the current state of eSports with the public results to ignorant laughter and mockery.
Society needs to learn and understand that there are categories of sport ranging from physical to non physical sports. Until the awareness of this is brought top light eSports may never be considered a sport. But with every challenge comes hope and there is a strong chance that one day eSports will be officially accepted as a sport by not only associations but society and maybe one day families will gather around televisions across the globe to sit down and watch a grand final game of eSports.
Befon. “Cloud9 CSGO: Tips for New Players & Becoming Pro.” YouTube. YouTube, 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2016
Casselman, Ben. “Resistance Is Futile: ESports Is the Future.” ESPN.com. N.p., 22 May 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
HBOsports. “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: ESports Discussion (HBO Sports).” YouTube. YouTube, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
Staff, TMZ. “Rick Fox: ESports Jocks Are Just Like NBA Players … Real Athletes.” TMZ. N.p., 29 June 2016. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.
TMZSports. “Rick Fox- ESports Will Overtake NHL In 2 Years!! | TMZ Sports.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.