The world of competitive gaming is experiencing growth like never before. While tournaments have been around since the dawn of video game inception, the collective focus of contests–and their ever-increasing payouts–has reached a new level.
It’s easy to forget how relatively new video games are, considering the leaps and bounds technology has provided. It’s only been a few decades since the likes of Pong, Asteroids, and Pac Man provided an excuse for kids to gather and drop coin after coin. One of the earliest video game competitions on record was in 1972, when Stanford University hosted a Spacewar contest that netted the winner a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone. In 1980, Atari held a Space Invaders tournament that brought in 10,000 players from around the United States. Now, prizes have crested over the million dollar horizon.
While sports in general have been positively impacted by modern technology (look how clearly you can see Antonio Brown twerk!), gaming has moved forward in leaps and bounds. With the steady industry and more strategic game concepts, the time is right for eSports to make the jump. Viewership and money has increased exponentially since the early 2000s, and over the past year has seen events televised on ESPN and TBS respectively. Even traditional sports teams are investing in the gaming community.
With the rise of eSports, I summoned a few of EB’s gaming experts to provide some personal takes on the growing craze.
Ana Febo – Staff Writer/Social Media:
“Multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Halo have such a huge following they it’s not surprising that a competitive sport came out playing both games. I hope that eSports shows non gaming folk that a lot of teamwork and communication goes into these matches. Granted their bodies don’t get slammed and broken bones won’t come of playing eSports, but it’s something that should be recognized. To some people it just seems like a waste of time, but the time and effort some of these teams put into honing their skills speaks volumes when they are put to the test for the world to see. Like it or not eSports is a thing now.”
Keith Mathias – Associate Editor:
“Largely, I appreciate eSports’ rise in the public consciousness; however, that appreciation doesn’t come without a set of caveats. I appreciate the fact that professional players are getting the recognition they deserve, and I very much appreciate that networks like ESPN are starting to recognize the outrageous physical and mental faculties required to compete at the very highest level in something like League of Legends or CounterStrike (although there’s been a great deal of backlash to this, both within and outside of the network). Although I’ve slacked off a great deal in recent years, competitive gaming is always going to be very close to my heart, and it’s good to know that the non-gaming public is becoming aware of that world.That said, I’m not entirely convinced that the way in which eSports is going is the best direction. Aside from larger and vastly more important issues of inclusion, the issue of whether or not the eSports industry is actually good for the players is something I regularly find myself questioning. In some ways, the spectacle of it all removes a certain degree of focus from the game itself,which just doesn’t sit well with me. There’s also the issue that eSports has a tendency to focus on the newest iteration of a particular franchise, which is itself a major problem. For example, focusing on the latest entry of Super Smash Bros. ignores the fact that the competitive Smash Bros. community has largely rejected every entry since Melee. It begs the question of who eSports really serves–the players, or the publishers?”
Zachery Bennett – Associate Editor:
“Oh, eSports. My nostalgic dealings with the likes of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and others (right now? Dropzone) have collectively indoctrinated me into the world of competitive, typically team-based games. Through gritted teeth I’ll say that I’m mostly a fan of the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre when it comes to high-stakes eSports, but I think there’s still a few kinks needing to be ironed out before eSports as a whole becomes as approachable as its ball-based brethren. And the crux of its universal success? Unity.
The carrot-and-stick mentality too often replaces the urge to achieve personal progress, and can be awfully disheartening to players trying to work together when one or two members aren’t playing with or for the team. Kill-to-death ratios, “color”-coded badges for rankings, daily quests, and many other varibales all play their part in the segregation of fun and competition, and to this day most attempts at promoting teamwork is nothing more than a short in-game restriction. Whether it’s a ten minute ban or a 75% XP penalty, each answer is as retroactively ineffective as the last. But this is the nature of the competitive scene. Strife between teams, team members, and even fans will inevitably brew regardless of any developer’s attempts to improve the community founded around their game, but the source of most rivalries found in traditional sports seem to spawn from an established sense of unity.
Cowboys vs. Redskins. Red Sox vs. Yankees. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. As fans’ passion for these teams (and all the rest) can often remain untethered, each team has an identity that provides their fans a commonality that can be used to bridge damn near any gap of differences between one another. Sports are largely team-dependent, and eSports are no different. This goes for a world championship just as it holds true to that solo queue match you just played. In this way, I am a huge advocate (read: HUGE advocate) of the rising eSports scene. But until these coagulated communities disband their tyrannical solo-mentality, eSports communities will be hard pressed to blend in with the herd.”