Tournament level video gaming is an undeniable presence in spectator entertainment, so much so that the audience for professional gameplay in “League of Legends” is surpassing the number of people tuning in to watch professional baseball. It almost seems that big money gaming is poised to take over the world of spectator sports.
It’s an odd situation. After all, what is the appeal of a game if you aren’t the one playing and succeeding in it? In the same way that cheating undermines a game by compromising its difficulty, doesn’t watching someone else play equally compromise your game by taking its challenge away from you and putting it in the hands of another person? Not to mention the separation of the average person from a professional baseball player is obvious, but anyone can hop on a keyboard and play a few games of “League of Legends.” What is the appeal of watching a game instead of playing it yourself, and on that note, what do eSports have to offer which regular sports don’t?
The first issue to consider here is a combination of time squeeze (the simple fact that time available to people is limited), and the inclination to see potential in a game through to its conclusion once you notice it’s there. If you’ve ever looked at a platform in “Mario” and felt the need to jump up onto it just because you thought you could, then you’ve felt the draw of a potential conclusion within a game. This may be one of the core appeals of gaming in general.
As complexity grows in a game, for example let’s say you’re playing a deeply competitive game like “Street Fighter 4,” the amount of time it takes to reach those conclusions increases, sometimes exponentially. Reaching new areas of understanding may only reveal more components of gameplay; more new pieces to master before traversing the gulf between what you think a fighting character can do and what you’re actually able to accomplish with them. It can be at these points that watching someone else play may be the more appealing option for some players. And if the game in question is particularly deep, then watching people uncover the game for you can take on a persistent and addictive quality.
Something else to consider is that players who are competitive within a game may watch videos of professionals playing in order to fill out their knowledge of what’s happening within the environment surrounding their game. This is a natural process that goes along with any kind of interest, video game or otherwise. When you enter into something, you want to have an idea of the buzz surrounding it so that your knowledge of things is up-to-date. In gaming this takes on an extra dimension, you must keep up with a game’s culture in order to make sure your strategies are valid, current, and that they deal with the state of the game and not what you presume makes up its present condition.
Furthermore, if you’re a creative player, and you want to introduce your own strategies, or play as an underused character, it’s important in this sense too to keep up with the forefront of a game’s competitive scene. Its one thing to create a new creative strategy, it’s quite another to grant it true value by entering into the fully competitive game rather than a vacuum of your individual experiences and expectations.
Unlike watching a proper sport, where the consequence of actions largely comes down to physical ability to produce them, games are fairly intellectual; the consequences of actions are more cerebral, like watching a lecture and taking mental notes. There are less variables in video games than real life sports games, more to hone in on and analyze, less is left up to the morass of variable human action and the infinite complexity of a body’s movement.
Video games reduce obscurity and increase familiarity by directing the realm of human action into a few select concrete channels (the actions you can perform in the game). But don’t mistake this for a decrease in complexity on the part of the player; the preliminary thoughts leading up to these actions within the game are still hugely complex. But they go on behind the scenes, what we see is just the simple mechanical conclusion. What we get is something easier to relate to.
Sports vs. eSports
Whether or not eSports are just as good as or better than sports is up to individual tastes. What’s unquestionable though is that eSports are a huge foray into the world of spectator entertainment, and bring certain things to the medium which traditional professional sports will never be able to offer. There’s room for both, and eSports have plenty of unique appeal; enough to make them shine. Not to mention lots of money.
Tim has been involved in the gaming scene since inception; well really when Nintendo hit the scene. He has seen the evolution of gaming and the PVP (player vs. player) environment. It is fun to watch the progression of the competition in these newer games. Although Tim works for cabletv.com he and his friends moonlight on the side with some awesome 5v5 action in League of Legends, although we aren’t all that great.