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The Game Effect Editorial

Discussion: Do You Care About eSports?

Tell us what you think of the emerging spectator sport

By Daniel Jones on 11/30/2012
Without naming names, a major video game website has been running an eSports tournament on its front page this week. Personally for me, this is the equivalent of when one of my favorite shows decides to do a telethon in place of its regular programming. I might watch it for a few minutes but after a short time, I'll be taking my attention elsewhere.

I just can't get into eSports. It's not an aversion to sports, as I'm actually a huge basketball and baseball fan (Go Cs and Sawx baby!). And it's not that I don't have an appreciation for the games being played, because even though I'm not a huge RTS fan, I don't even enjoy watching the fighting game or Counterstrike tournaments.

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One thing that watching sports always makes me want to do, is actually play the sport itself. Watching Uconn basketball when I was a kid was usually accompanied by a half hour of shooting hoops during the half-time. But with eSports, it's a bit different. The TV is right in front of me. It's right there, begging for me to just pop in Battlefield 3 and play a match rather than watch these more talented people go at it. And it's so much more accessible. Even if it's raining outside or snow is covering the ground, I can still get into my own battle ground without even having to move my feet.

So I want to know. What do you think of eSports? Do you enjoy them? If not, why? What kind of eSports would you like to see? I want to hear your comments so make sure to leave a reply either in the comments below, on Twitter, Facebook, N4G, or write me a letter in snail mail. Let's have a discussion.
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USER COMMENTS
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quantifier on January 03, 2013
I think another big hurdle for e-sports is the idea of having 'your' team. Dan, you made it very clear you have two teams you love to cheer for, and that plays a huge part in keeping you interested. Most people don't really watch sports for the sake of watching sports. They have their favorite teams or their favorite players to keep track of and cheer for. There are the storylines that follow each team when they play their rivals or get to the 'big game'. Even people who aren't fans of some teams can still appreciate it when two juggernauts of their respective sports square off. Look at the tradition of teams like the Packers, Steelers, Yankees, Cubs, etc. They have been around so long, their history stretches back generations.

However, when you look at the e-sports world, you can't put a team like that in any category, yet. If you follow the culture to some degree, you may recognize names. I play Dota2 and the first name I can remember is MyM (can't remember what it stands for, Meet Your Maker?). But after that it drops like a stone. Unless you are a diehard fan of a game or a top-tier player, you probably can't name any teams or players, so you don't have anything to get you going when you watch a match. Maybe someday, like 20 years from now, e-sports will have taken off. Look at how huge Fantasy sports have become. It's possible, but its going to take time for these sports to really take hold.
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SudoClarity on December 01, 2012
I am not really into e-Sports, because, like Jackalope already said, you have to know the rules of the game being played before you can completely follow the competition. But even though I have tried some of the "big games" in e-Sports (like League of Legends or StarCraft II), I never really got into them. I mean, they are quite fun, but I think you need much time to really understand every detail about them and to develop effective strategies. But when I play, I sometimes have the feeling that many people take it too serious. Yes, it's their hobby and they maybe also want to become successful and more professional, but sometimes I wonder, where the fun part of gaming did go. I appreciate members and fans of e-Sports, because I know that they have to put much work and energy into their training and competition. But for me, gaming should stay something to be fun. Something to escape the pressure to be good at school or in jobs that is almost everywhere nowadays, instead of being another thing that puts you under pressure. E-sports is a great thing and I think it has the same right to be popular like "normal" sports, but I just can't really get into it.

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indiejones on December 01, 2012
That's a great point. I never really thought about it from that angle.
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SudoClarity on December 31, 2012
tiny update: spent some more time playing League of Legends now and it is more and more fun to me :)  but what has not changed: I still see gaming as fun, not as a competition! And I still have a lot of rescpect for professional gamers.
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pungello1988 on December 01, 2012
Personally I'm not into e-Sports. I appreciate the strategy, dedication, and effort that people put into it but it just isn't the athletic spectacle that a sport like hockey or football is. I think I like watching spectator sports because of the athletic prowess more than the strategy (though there is plenty of that to be had in major sports as well). It all comes down to personal taste
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Jackalope on November 30, 2012
I love eSports. If you look closely, there are all different kinds of games that are played competitively. A great place to get a feel for this is http://gamebattles.majorleaguegaming.com/ where you can see most of what is being played in the eSports arena. People play Pokemon, Mario Kart, the Naruto fighters, Rainbow Six Vegas 2, etc. in addition to the more widely known games like StarCraft 2 and League of Legends/Dota 2.



FPS competitive play doesn't really get me excited. Since I am not very good at multiplayer FPS tactics/gameplay, I can't really appreciate when a player does something that is really cool. However, as a longtime RTS fanatic and MOBA player, when I see someone pull of some insane unit micromanagement or brilliant strategic maneuver I get really excited.



One of the major things holding eSports back is that games are... well... games. Each one has different rules to learn even if they are in the same genre. As a spectator, that means you have to learn the game before it can be exciting or fun to watch. Let me relate it to physical sports: If you didn't know the rules to Baseball, it would be a pretty boring game to sit through. But if you know the ins and outs of Baseball, you can jump and cheer wildly when your favorite team pulls off a triple-play. One of the reasons that StarCraft and StarCraft 2 are both so deeply entrenched in eSports is that the games have been around for nearly a decade and a half, giving millions of people time to play and learn the fundamentals of the game. These basics didn't change much between StraCraft: Brood War and StarCraft 2, so the audience was able to shift their...

You know what? I could just keep going. So, I am going to stop now and just leave you with this: The draw of eSports is to appreciate the skill of other human beings pitted against each other. Sure, you can go shoot hoops, but playing Basketball yourself isn't the same as appreciating (insert really good b-ball player name)'s skill at the same game. 






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indiejones on November 30, 2012
Thanks for the lengthy comment. I see what you mean about appreciating someone else's talent. And that part does make me interested but I also think I have a hard time relating to the players or wanting to really cheer for them. They need some interesting personalities in the leagues that people can relate to and cheer for. I guess I just haven't found that yet.
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