The Spawn Room

Category: eSports Articles (page 1 of 2)

Specific Strategies != Understanding Strategy in eSports

I’m going to start publishing some of the strategy documentation I’ve worked on over the past year. It’s become an incredibly interesting field to study and I think it’s handled poorly in eSports (at least generally). We tend to “teach strategies” which require memorization of specific variables in complex scenarios. This is not helpful to new or even mid-level players. Instead fledgling competitors need fundamental understanding of strategy that allow them to fully grasp the “why’s” of specific strategies.

I’m going to start with an explanation of what I just mentioned above: teaching strategies is NOT the same as understanding strategy. When a new video is released that analyzes a professional strat, we often look to mimic their behavior. And this can have wonderful results that win matches, but the red flag here is that you didn’t succeed because you successfully employed a strategy. Rather, the strategy employed itself and took you along for the ride. Without actually controlling (or understanding) each element of what you mimicked, you are essentially just letting fate decide whether or not it works. This is because there are a range of potential variables at work in a complex environment. And this goes back to something I’ve mentioned before about why strategy works in the first place: because humans are incapable at fully controlling them. If our brains could wrap around strategies completely, keep everything in check, and update on the fly, we’d end every match in a stalemate. Strategy itself is the exploitation of your opponents weaknesses and inability to keep up. This is why fundamental lessons are so important and why specific strategies should be left to the pros.

So, what’s the alternative, you may ask? With a battlefield that changes too rapidly to completely keep up, you are better off training your mind to recognize individual elements. This allows you to keep a running tab on actions that result in a player/team advantage or disadvantage. Which in turn reveals how you should react. You’re basically looking for data that enables you to ask the right questions, make assumptions about the enemy team, or simply know what they’re doing. Don’t try and see the complete picture all at once, instead learn to break it down into its constituent parts.

This inability to alter strats on the fly happens frequently in CS:GO (of which I specialize), where teams who push a bombsite cannot quickly alter their plan when it reveals itself suicidal. A recent dust2 catwalk push comes to mind, where some players pushed out, got awped, and everyone sat by the stairs as the CTs closed in. We had roughly 5 seconds where we could have immediately turned towards B or thrown more flashes and smokes out to cover our rush, but everyone seemed to freeze up. Of course we weren’t properly communicating, but the lesson stands. We tend to look at a catwalk push as the strat itself and nothing more. But it consists of many smaller elements that can be understood and reacted to. The first AWP shot reveals our intent which means we know the mid and long A CTs are probably pushing out or falling back. A smoke towards T spawn could have masked our retreat while flashes and grenades towards double door could have bought us time to retreat. Additional grenades into A site could have delayed the CTs since they expected a push, attacking through mid could have cut off vulnerable reinforcements, and the list goes on.

Now you may think to yourself, that’s way too much to remember, it’s actually easier to just mimic a strat and hope it works. This may be true, BUT you don’t necessarily have to recognize everything all at once. Each teammate can recognize a single piece of data to help leverage the survivability of your team. Let’s say you alone suspect a CT from mid doors to jump on crate. This causes you to flash and grenade the area. Let’s say that you missed any damage, but the flash slowed the CT by a couple seconds. What you don’t realize is that your teammate would have died right there because the CT on the ground was about to pick him as he peeked towards T-spawn. Instead he was able to pick the CT coming from long A or launch a smoke obscuring his vision. Neither of you recognized the others tactic or the multitude of other options, but still managed to save one another and buy time. All because you recognized one element of what was going on around you.

This is the essence of better strategy. It’s not memorization of complex scenarios or mimicking professionals. It’s about recognizing what they’re made of and the patterns that emerge because of them. So go out, spectate, and start picking apart your game. Don’t worry about why the match was won or lost, worry about why someone died in a specific moment and how it could have been avoided. Good luck!

Understanding Probabilities in Competitive Gaming and eSports

One question I’ve always asked, until I understood more about strategy, was, “why don’t they just do X, it seems so obvious”, or “why didn’t they do X instead?” From a non-professional viewpoint, often times it seems like there are alternate options that would be highly successful that professionals simply do not use. The reason for this is derived from statistics. There are actions and reactions that are most successful because of assumptions we can make about our opponent. If both teams know that certain actions are more statistically likely than others, than they assume that both teams will do them. So then intuitively you might think, well why don’t they just do the opposite to surprise the enemy team and win. Well this is only slightly true. Surprise maneuvers that are statistically less likely to succeed can work, but the problem is a trade-off of increased risk. In retrospect there are always alternative options that could have worked better, including a wide range of offbeat and risky choices, but the problem is that players must work in the moment and make decisions based off tried and true successful choices. Going off the beaten professional path means taking a higher risk by employing a generally less successful strategy, and while it may work once or even twice, the opposing team will simply adjust to counter your tactics. Once they adjust, they employ the most successful tactic to counter it. Imagine there are all these different routes you can take on any given map. You and the enemy team make choices and each route dynamically adjusts to a percentage success chance based on current positions, HP, etc. As a player you are trying to determine, based on the current situation (current moment), what is the highest percentage path to take. If I choose the left path I have a known 65% percentage chance of success while the right path is 75%. Choose the right because statistically you will perform better over the course of a tournament. Successful teams are those that exploit successful choices more often than their opponents. Another way to imagine this is that if you played a computer bot that could calculate everything at real time, you could never (or at least almost never) win against it because it would always choose the highest path towards success (this assuming it’s not cheating). Since humans are imperfect and generally bad at calculating, strategy exists for that reason. If we all had the data and a way to interpret it, we couldn’t really compete against one another because the outcomes would be known (we’d tie every match). That or we would find some sort of “ultra subtle super calculation strategy” that would be entertaining, but fruitless. Basically the point is, strategy exists because of numbers and our inability to calculate them accurately and/or quickly.

Try and imagine what your opponent knows. For example, a 1-on-1 scenario, you see him moving to the right and percentages pop into your head saying: 85% he continues on his trajectory, 15% he reverses direction. Based on current round time, and 85% path, he must choose only 2 of 3 routes because route 3 is too dangerous and too time consuming. If he reverses direction, 1 of 3 routes are viable due to round timer restriction. If he reverses direction, he must do so within 5 seconds otherwise that path is no longer viable. If he does reverse direction and I don’t notice, he gains a positioning advantage over me. If I wait 5 seconds to see if he reverses, he can safely choose all 3 previously mentioned routes because the danger of you being there is gone, however he doesn’t know that, so 2 of 3 routes are still likely. But because of that 5 second window, he gains 5 seconds more of unimpeded progress which puts you at a positioning and timing disadvantage. The reason being that you would now be entering an area that he is defending. You must now make a decision, do you wait the 5 seconds to see if he reverses direction (which was a 15% chance with a possible positioning disadvantage) or do you continue to the 85% target area where you can gain a positioning advantage over 2 routes? The obvious answer would be to take the 85% path with positioning advantage because it puts you in a more powerful position. This is an example of what I mentioned above where professionals make this sort of calculation and choose the best path. But when the opponent decides to reverse direction at a 15% probability, it’s easy for fans to say “oh c’mon, that was obvious! Why didn’t he check there?” It’s because as a player you cannot do everything, so you must make decisions based on data. Choosing the best possible probabilistic decision, while it does not guarantee a win, will over time increase your odds of winning. Or, it could be said, if you are making good decisions 85% of the time, then you should win a majority of matches against opponents who are making good decisions less than 85% of the time, and vice versa.

For more information you can also read “Hindsight Bias” on Less Wrong.

Artosis has a secret younger brother who casts Quake Live

Anyone else think this Zoot Live guy looks like Artosis?

Someone wasn’t convinced, how about this one:

Artosis Zoot Live 2

Here’s the original: http://i.imgur.com/8tWYj.png

Artosis

Why isn’t World of Warcraft played competitively?

Every once in awhile I run across someone asking “why doesn’t WoW have an eSports community?” And often it’s followed by a complete unawareness to the history of competitive WoW and remarks like “if we held WoW tournaments they could definitely be as popular as League of Legends and StarCraft 2!” Today I wanted to clarify why WoW isn’t an eSport and why you don’t find tournaments for it nowadays.

Note: I understand that there are WoW teams and tournaments, what we’re talking about is why WoW is barely ever mentioned in eSports or played at any major tournaments.

First, WoW has been played competitively. It used to be featured at Major League Gaming events and Blizzard has hosted tournaments for it at BlizzCon. MLG included it in their pro circuit from 2008-2010 and dumped tens of thousands of dollars of  prize money into it. BlizzCon has continued to include it in their events with last years World Championship (2012) having close to $200,000 in prize money. The problem in recent years is that there isn’t a consistent tournament schedule which severely deters players from pursuing a professional career. Of course that could be remedied if there were simply more tournaments. So how come there isn’t?

A very prominent argument against WoW is that it’s simply too complicated for eSports. Players have access to dozens of unique abilities that are spammed in quick succession making it far to difficult for spectators and commentators to keep track of what’s going on. This is a great point because the best eSports are ones that have successful commentary. StarCraft 2, League of Legends, and Dota 2 all have less abilities and thus more emphasis is placed on their use. Commentators can follow it closely and analyze whether or not it was a successful decision and how it will play out in the match. In WoW the abilities are used so quickly that commentary comes down to merely generalizations that become boring: “ok, he’s got a DoT, now he’s cleansing, here come the heals, now they’re returning damage…” This may sound fine at first, but would get highly repetitive match after match. The alternative of course being that if abilities were used more slowly, commentators could remark on the actual decisions: “incoming DoT is corruption, cleanse is used, incoming heal is lay on hands, ooh I don’t think he should have used that there, instead he should have buffed him with divine protection and used flash of light, that would have been more economical, now he’s going to have trouble…” But since abilities move too quickly, commentators aren’t able to delve deeply into the strategy that’s going on.

The above point should be distinguished from another similar argument: “WoW is too complicated for eSports in reference to the actual amount of abilities”. This is something I completely disagree with. StarCraft 2, Dota 2, and League of Legends all require a high level of understanding to properly interpret what you’re seeing. This argument neglects to realize the actual computations. WoW arena always had specific team compositions that were more powerful than others (like tiers in fighting games). Out of the 11 classes, high level arena play would use maybe 3-4 of the classes. Each class has 20-30 unique abilities, but only a handful are used regularly. That’s a max of 120 items to remember, and probably closer to 60. League of Legends on the other hand has over 100 champions, of which roughly 20 are used regularly. Each has 4 abilities that are always used with 6 items that are always used. But the same 6 items aren’t selected by everyone, meaning that there are dozens of items you would need to memorize. So there are approximately 200 items and let’s say only 50 of them are used on a regular basis. That’s 20*4+50 = 130 items to memorize. Millions of League of Legends fans have done this easily. The argument that WoW is simply too complicated to understand only hinges on the fact that things happen so quickly, not that there are too many abilities.

Note: you may argue that I didn’t include gear which would add a new level of complexity, but this really isn’t the case because in professional WoW tournaments, gear is open for players to select before the match. This negates their effect because players already know what to select. It’s not a decision they have to make on the field based on what’s happening, and thus it’s need for memorization is negligible.

The game is too old.” This argument is immediately dismissed when you consider that Brood War, DotA, and Counter-Strike 1.6 have been played for around a decade each, even when new “fancier” titles were released to replace them. If WoW was a good eSport, people would play it regardless of the graphics or age.

There’s no developer support.” That’s always a valid point to consider, but it hinges on the reception they receive from the competitive community. I would imagine Blizzard learned everything they needed to know in the few years of running WoW tournaments with BlizzCon and MLG. It clearly didn’t pan out like other titles and died for a reason. Developer support is important, but only if people are going to play your game. For example, look at ShootMania: Storm right now, there is strong developer support, but the competitive community isn’t really picking it up. Of course that doesn’t mean that smaller niche communities aren’t important. One of the coolest aspects of eSports is all the small communities centered around less popular titles like WoW, Quake Live, and Enemy Territory.

Gear requirements are a problem.” This argument differs from above and actually is a problem in my opinion. The core game requires non-professional players to work for their PvP gear as opposed to a game like Guild Wars that offered a mode with all gear unlocked. This is problematic because it places a large barrier at the beginning of your competitive career. And we clearly see this because only a small percentage of WoW players bother with arena. They realize the time and effort necessary to earn the gear and thus don’t bother competing.

WoW arena is boring to watch.” This is sadly one of the primary problems plaguing competitive WoW. While you may argue that “boring” is a subjective term, companies disagree and instead look at numbers and measure ROI. WoW never had impressive turnout at MLG events compared to other titles and when considering that a different more popular title could replace it for the same cost, the decision is simple. People found it boring and hard to spectate and it was reflected in the numbers. A great example of why it’s boring, as mentioned above in the abilities section, is the difference between MOBA/RTS abilities and MMO abilities. Because there are so many used in rapid succession it leads to a “watering down” effect, which diminishes the noteworthiness of each used ability. Whereas when you have less abilities used more sparingly, it is exciting and critical to time their use accurately. The strategy is deeper and more apparent.

Lastly, balancing isn’t handled in the right context, and this is the real killer and ultimate reason why WoW isn’t played competitively. Since MMO’s have a variety of different environments, Blizzard is forced to balance across the board, rather than focusing on an individual category. PvE, raiding, arenas, battlegrounds, and world PvP all require different ways to balance properly because they utilize different variables. But since there isn’t separate balancing changes for each, we are fed blanket balance changes that attempts to satisfy them all at a mediocre level. Add on top of this the fact that Blizzard is constantly patching the game, and you have a competitive community that cannot train and perfect their skills. This completely destroys any chance of forming top tier talent and thus any real competitive community. Until this aspect of the game is remedied, WoW will never be an eSport.

Secret last point: I almost forgot to mention random crits. The fact that players can random crit one another for high amounts of damage and not respawn is another serious flaw in competitive game design. The best eSports titles avoid or eliminate any random chance since randomness impedes skill.

Why Dota 2 is considered more hardcore than League of Legends

Last night I posted a new video discussing why Dota 2 is considered more hardcore than League of Legends. The video and MP3 are available at the bottom; directly below are the show notes:

Hello and welcome to an opinionated eSports piece about why people consider Dota 2 more hardcore than League of Legends.

So first, as someone interested in all of eSports, one of my goals is to be impartial and appreciate all genres and aspects of eSports. So when I loaded up Dota 2 after significant time playing League I went in with an open mind. I’ve also spent some time watching Dota 2.

So why is Dota 2 considered more hardcore? Well first, if we look at the companies and their games from a non-gameplay perspective, they seem very similar. Valve is known for developing competitive titles, nurturing the competitive communities (at least to some degree, CS fans might disagree), and maintaining their games for the long term. Riot is also very supportive, arguably even more so, but they haven’t been around long enough to see how loyal they are to eSports. Both games are designed with competition as a core aspect, both have features for supporting eSports like in-game match spectating and advertising events. So basically I’m not interested in comparing companies or the interface or the programming behind the games. This evolves, both seem supportive, it’s not worth considering in my opinion.

What is worth considering though, is the strategic elements since this is generally what makes a good competitive title good. StarCraft 2 is incredibly deep, with serious meta elements to consider, and evolving strategy. Even something like Quake Live which seems very simple, is so pure that the strategy happens through the players and can be surprisingly deep (reference my QL strategy video). But what about Dota 2 and LoL?

Well it seems pretty obvious once you join the game that Dota 2 must be more strategic simply because there are more elements to consider. To say otherwise would be foolishly arrogant. For instance:

  • Movement varies between champions altering playstyles, used for balancing as well
  • You can manipulate your own minion wave which allows you to manipulate lanes
  • You can deny creep by stealing last hits
  • Most items have an active effect + more useable items like pots/bonuses
  • Orb walking in Dota 2, seems controversial if it exists in LoL (animation canceling)

Because of these differences Dota 2 seems less forgiving, more difficult, but with deeper strategy. However, there are consequences to this and I think it explains why League is more popular than Dota 2:

  • It seems less exciting to watch since shallower games tend to focus more on action
    • Remember people think movies like Transformers and The Avengers are “really good”, meaning that they like to be visually rewarded, not intellectually rewarded
    • Analyzing gameplay in Dota 2 is probably too difficult/time consuming
  • In League champion survivability seems much higher meaning team fights are longer
  • Higher entry barrier to new players, higher requirement for strategic knowledge
    • This problem was addressed in a previous video I did about competitive FPS
  • I think the movement variation will turn people off, especially the delay
    • The delay makes the game feel slow and thus slightly more boring
    • In League it’s cool that players can “dodge” skillshots

One question I have for viewers, that I couldn’t easily find, is “in League it seems games often tip towards a team fairly early on and if you understand the strategy you can usually tell who’s going to win. Is this the same in Dota 2? Or with the deeper strategic elements, do you find teams improvising more and pulling out of these holes?”
I would think so, since teams have more choices in how to reverse the scales and regain momentum, but the enemy team also has more choices. How does work out?

I also feel like League is more visually appealing than Dota 2 since it has an almost WoW look to it, something friendly and cartoony. Dota 2 looks more serious and polished, but I wonder at a statistical level how many players might choose a game that “looks better”

  • Example, say just 1% of MOBA gamers will choose LoL over Dota 2 because of visual appeal, that could be ~400-500k players if the MOBA base is 40-50 million players.
  • This isn’t really relevant, but just another thought I was considering
  • I really like the look of Dota 2 though, especially the interface

All-in-all the games are both fun and cater to different communities. I think it’s safe to say that Dota 2 is more hardcore than League, however I don’t believe Dota 2 will ever beat League in popularity. League is easier to get into thus will be many players first MOBA and the one they’re loyal to. I also think it’s more fun for people because there isn’t all the subtle challenges they face in Dota 2, like learning hundreds of active item effects and movement variations. Dota 2 will also suffer from the same fate that SC2 suffers, having no “fun mode” for new players to get sucked into the game. There will be that high frustration and ladder anxiety that stops a significant percentage of players from enjoying the game. This is a very serious problem too, since eSports needs larger audiences to grow. If we select games like Dota 2 and SC2 for the premier competitive titles, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We need games like League to open the doors for new players, especially since people who play a specific game or sport, tend to get really into spectating it as well. For instance, people who’ve played soccer or football personally, will often times be more attached to spectating it than non-players. eSports will be no different.

And of course here is the actual video:

And as requested via the YouTube chat, a link to the MP3 download of this broadcast.

Other Tags: LoL, MOBA, ARTS, Dota2

Having Realistic Expectations in eSports

Last night I published a short opinion piece about having realistic expectations in eSports. Specifically it was in regards to getting paid from eSports positions and the Major League Gaming Fall Championship.

The first point I went on to make was my theory about why such a small percentage of people get paid from eSports. It’s because these organizations, while appearing large and successful from the outside, are actually operating on razor thin margins. This instability in a volatile market means we need to treat them like start-up companies. They are only able to hire the absolute best candidates because a single bad employee could literally put the company out of business. And we see this every 6-9 months, with another organization going under. So as an individual interested in pursuing eSports professionally, understand that you have a long road ahead. You must prove your worth by creating value over a consistent period of time. Only then will they consider paying you.

The second point I wanted to make was that as fans we need to have proper expectations when dealing with tournaments. I saw a number of angry Tweets on Friday and Saturday from HD purchasers who said they would never buy MLG again. This saddens me because 1. they are giving you a free pass for the next event and 2. this industry is really young. eSports has only been around in its current context for ~12 years and the technology we’re using make everything possible only 3-4 years. No matter how much money someone throws you, hosting an event at this stage of the game is going to result in problems. MLG took a risk by switching streaming partners (I’m assuming because of a better deal or simply to “test the waters” and take power away from Twitch), which results poorly. It’s going to happen as things evolve. Please give them a chance to grow and support whatever they do so we can have a bright future. Of course I should also clarify by saying that complaining and holding people to standards is a good thing, just don’t count them out completely.

Here is the full video:

Other Tags: MLG, TwitchTV

Why are the Koreans so damn good at StarCraft?

The other day I released a video called “Why are the Koreans so damn good at StarCraft?” In it I discussed my thoughts regarding work ethic and how it impacts eSports. Foreigners seem ill-equipped to deal with the strict training regimens Koreans and other Asian countries are currently employing. Instead American players are spending more time “branding” themselves by streaming and developing personalities. While this can be very entertaining and enlightening in regards to strategy and other topics, it shows at tournaments. So many of our international venues are dominated by Asian players who consume the top 5, top 10, and even sometimes the top 15 spots. In the most recent MLG, Naniwa, the last foreigner hope, was beaten out at the 13th-16th Ro6 slot! While this might not be a problem for some who closely follow the GOM or KeSPA tournaments, it is a problem for most. Having a more even split gives many fans someone to really root for and tournaments would be infinitely more exciting if our “home team” was competing at the end.

The other problem mentioned in the video is one of speculation. If Koreans are training ~12 hours / day, and foreigners start to catch up, what would happen? Would the Koreans start to train more? And if they do, what happens if being a pro gamer means you dedicate virtually ever waking minute to training? I can see a future where an elite group of highly disciplined gamers dominate every tournament because they use polyphasic sleep to achieve a 4-hour daily sleep routine and spend the rest training. Can we stop that from happening? Or is it even possible for the mind to achieve that level of focus?

Just some thoughts to mull over, here is the video:

Other Tags: MLG, SC2, StarCraft II, Brood War

The Problem with Competitive FPS

Today I published a new eSports opinionated piece called “The Problem with Competitive FPS”. Within, I talk about some problems plaguing the dying competitive FPS scene like a lack of developer support, a poor spectator experience, a lack of novel complexity (or whatever you want to call it, refer to paragraph below), a high required level of strategic knowledge, volatile communities, and a lack of unifying support. All these come together in a perfect storm of total destruction that is killing the once fruitful and exciting genre of FPS eSports.

I also forgot to mention the idea of the “illusion of strategic knowledge” that MOBA/RTS games give viewers. By focusing on resources, player movements, and other interface related details people may have the illusion that they understand what’s going on, but actually don’t and wouldn’t be able to answer the tough “why” questions.

Other Tags: CSGO, CS:GO, MLG, Halo, FPS, First-Person Shooter

Guild Wars 2 review, To Buy or Not to Buy! (Positives and Negatives)

Every now and then I publish content on my general gaming channel “perlox5”. This time around it’s for the most recent MMO to hit the markets: Guild Wars 2. My friends and I picked up copies and set out into the world of Tyria to explore and test out what ArenaNet could deliver. I am a long-time World of Warcraft player and fan, and have tested a variety of different paid, F2P, and beta MMO’s to find something to replace my longing for the next WoW. But so far nothing has come close. Is Guild Wars 2 the next big MMO? Does it live up to expectations? Is it the next WoW? All those answers and more within!

Update 7/31/2013: so we ended up playing the game for 40-50 hours before quitting, but eventually returned a second and third time. It’s an excellent game considering no paid subscription. You can get bored, take a break, and return without worrying about the monthly fee. We’ve leveled a couple characters, had fun times with the unique content, but miss some of the traditional MMO mechanics like distinct class roles and raiding content. As of now I’ve sunk over 125 hours into the game and consider the cost of picking up well covered. There’s also a fair number of players still playing and world events have a pretty good turnout.

eSports in the Olympics

I’ve seen a number of Tweets today sharing links and thoughts about the Olympics adding eSports. There’s even a petition you can sign to voice your support. Pretty neat, so I thought I’d comment on it myself and address a few points that have been brought up.

I think the first place we should start is an entry level issue for some people: is eSports a sport? Many will immediately discredit competitive gaming as non-physical, thus not a sport. Most definitions even emphasize “physical activity” as a fundamental aspect. If we look at the definition for “physical activity” we get something along the lines of “any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness” [Wikipedia]. Now to a degree this is a point against eSports, right? It’s not necessarily physically demanding outside the stress of enduring long tournaments. However, if we look at some sports, we find that they focus on specific human attributes like physical strength, endurance, or finesse, but not all together. The athletes choose to be well rounded athletic individuals not because their sport demands it, but because they demand it. The point I’m trying to make here is that a well rounded athlete could utilize competitive gaming (i.e. improving reflexes and dexterity) to be a better, stronger athlete. eSports should be considered a sport because it meets the requirement of challenging the body, even if it’s not in a traditional sense.

London 2012 Archery

The top London Olympic archers don’t look overly fit (wikimedia.org).

Next we should talk about what sports are currently in the Olympics and how they argue for or against eSports. My initial reaction was that games like League of Legends and StarCraft 2 might take too long. Most Olympic sports seem to be highly specialized and focus on exact skills like running, throwing, jumping, flexibility, etc. Video games are played out in matches and don’t feel the same in that regard. But then we must remember that basketball and football (soccer) are included now. So clearly that isn’t a hurdle to getting them there. One argument against eSports I will concede to is that some sports may deserve priority over it. The Olympics only had 26 categories and 39 total disciplines. That’s not very many when considering how many could be added. Then we must ask ourselves, in the interest of fairness, are there sports that deserve to be included before eSports? For instance, Wind Surfing, Pole Dancing, Skateboarding, Softball, Equestrian Vaulting (which made me giggle), Rugby, and road racing were all petitioned for. Thus we must development an argument for why eSports deserves to be there over any of them.

One of those arguments, and a benefit I consider the greatest eSports has over traditional sports, is accessibility. Anyone can play from anywhere in the world. Have you ever heard anyone say, “yeah I love watching [soccer/football/tennis/etc] because I played it in high school and college”? This is what eSports has going for it. A world of gamers, playing these games, having fun, and developing strong connections with them. I see eSports taking off because the vast majority of the world will feel instantly connected to them. They’ll understand what it takes to be good and how skilled the professional players actually are. Not to mention the fact that eSports doesn’t require difficult scheduling and logistics. You can load the game and be competing within minutes whereas traditional sports are limited to your ability to find interested players, schedule a time to play (that doesn’t conflict with 10-15 other people), and then actually travel to the destination. Professional gamers will be able to spend more time practicing and competing than traditional athletes on top of a massive pool of new amateur talent.

Another benefit to eSports is safety. In the United States there’s been news articles expressing concern over football players and the amount of concussions their suffering. The constant banging of heads and bodies is resulting in brain damage to some players later in life. There’s also “disappointing injuries” like Raphael Nadal has experienced recently. The star Tennis athlete has had to forfeit his US Open matches due to a knee injury. This does happen in eSports as we’ve seen with someone like Liquid’s TLO, who took a break from gaming to nurture a serious carpal tunnel injury. But when compared, I would expect the numbers to be significant. No more would we hear depressing stories about college athletes who “almost made it”, but hurt their shoulder and had to retire.

So what’s holding us back? I’d say the biggest factor is simply public opinion. In this article on Forbes, the author argues that eSports could be in the Olympics by 2020, but personally, I’d be shocked if that happened. From what I’ve learned in life, 8 years is far too quick for a culture to accept something new. Yes, yes, I know eSports has been around for over a decade, but for most people it hasn’t. For most people eSports has been around for a year or two. And I believe this is the marking point for measuring how soon major events are going to take place. Not to mention that we need an entire industry to develop long before the Olympic committee considers us a serious candidate. Hopefully I’m wrong.

But in my honest opinion, I consider eSports the future of competition. It’s accessible and highly competitive, it’s an intellectual sport for an increasingly intellectual world, and has potential to completely crush any physical competition. I truly believe eSports will be the biggest change in the sports landscape in all of history, and I think it’s just around the corner.

UPDATE: someone on Twitter mentioned technology being a barrier for many countries to compete thus eliminating a number of potential athletes. This is definitely an issue, but I’m not sure to what degree. Technology is accessible virtually everywhere in the world and since we’re considering the best athletes, those who need the technology to play will find it. I think the biggest determination in this regard would be the amount of people that could participate within their country. For instance, in the US we’d have millions of gamers to choose candidates from, whereas a smaller country like Botswana or Nepal would only have thousands of potential candidates. But I’m not sure how much that matters since many of these countries only send a handful of athletes anyway.

He also mentioned literacy, which is an interesting issue. One of the barriers to eSports is a persons inability to understand what’s happening in complex games like StarCraft 2 and League of Legends. Even traditional sports like basketball and football (soccer), which are both in the Olympics, are easier to understand than the intricacies of most competitive games. And now compound that with a lack of gaming technology in poorer nations and it really becomes a problem. The only hope here is probably the proliferation of cheap gaming technology to these countries over the next decades.

Another Twitter follower asked where does it stop? If eSports is added, then why not “rock skipping” or “long distance spitting”? First, I’d like to say thanks to this guy for holding a very respectful and interesting conversation. I was worried when I first sent my Tweet that I’d get into a pissing match with some troll or “hater”. Quite the contrary. Second, this is an interesting question because I feel it represents a number of people. Our society often simplifies concepts we don’t actively participate in. For instance, with sports in general, non-competitors may perceive sports to be much simpler than it is. We don’t take into consideration the magnitude of minor decisions and the strategy that goes on behind the plays. Take American football, which may appear to be relatively simple. We have each team on the field, one with a ball, they run different patterns, throw it around, and try to make it across the field. This where much of the game may end for most people. They don’t consider all the thoughts and actions that professional athletes take into consideration when determining which play to run, whether or not to throw it, and factors off the field that might effect them. We just simplify it because we don’t need to know everything to enjoy it. With eSports it’s no different. The mind games, strategy, and decisions are even more complex than traditional sports. It’s like chess, except people enjoy watching it. That’s why I believe it’s the future of competition because it’s a fresh and intelligent approach to sports. The problem with rock skipping and long distance spitting is that they aren’t compelling. Plus I should probably mention that it doesn’t need to be fair anyway. The committee decides what constitutes an Olympic sport and they already don’t include hundreds of potential candidates. Thus worrying about where it stops is somewhat irrelevant.

 UPDATE 2: Another potential benefit to eSports is the lessons it might teach people. There are the obvious ones like a general appreciation for competition, learning to work as a team, understanding the intricacies of strategy, and the importance of subtle decisions. But there are also other potential lessons and rewards to eSports. For example, after learning how to program, I gained the ability to think more abstractly which has proved extremely useful in helping expand my mind. With eSports I think we could see the same thing as people delve into the complexities of competitive gaming and begin to understand just how much depth is involved in every decision. They may also use eSports as a catalyst for addressing issues in their own life since ignoring them may cause a mental barrier. If someone is depressed but also motivated to become a professional gamer, then they may begin the path to self-improvement. This of course applies to many things, but should not be lost on eSports.

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