Where to, DotA? #3

Posted by Q "qinen" N at 30 August 2011 17:24
This week we go on the offensive. We challenge the oft repeated view that eSports should never be put into the same boat as Sports. Of course, no one can assume a holier-than-thou attitude to this debate as only time can confirm the success of eSports. This piece by shostakovich explores the essence of sports and how it is the very same essence shared by eSports.

His piece is primarily a response to an article that was posted up in destructoid some time back. The reader is advised to read the article before reading shostakovich's response.

As always, enjoy!

This text is an answer to Ms. Elsa, who recently wrote about eSports on destructoid. This text reflects my own opinion. A big wall of text is following. You've been warned.

In her text, Ms. Elsa purports that eSports will never be as popular as sports because eSports is not sports. "Videogames will likely never become as popular as true sports, very simply because they are not a sport -- they are a GAME", she says. Thus, she is establishing a difference between sports and games, i.e. eSports isn't sports. It is around this difference that her whole text is based on. So, let us ask ourselves: are games and sports different things, just like what Ms. Elsa suggests? In light of this question, I will take a different approach, one very different from Ms. Elsa's, who arbitrarily suggests semantic subtleties to differentiate games from sports. I will investigate the origins, the essence of the experience behind games and sports.

There are experiences that always follows words, because words are not born from nothing. So, from what experience the word "game" is born? Let's check it's etymology. The noun "game" came from the old English "gamen", which means joy, fun, amusement. "Gamen" is connected to the old norse "gaman", which means sport, merriment. Also, the old norse "gaman" is identical with the gothic "gaman", which means participation, communion. All these words derive from the proto-germanic language, formed with the union of the collective prefix ga- with the word *mann, which means person, forming a word that gives the sense of "people being together". According to the etymology, only in 1300 the word "game" is used with the sense of "contest played according to rules". So, the essential experience behind the word "game" is the collective experience behind it, and the joy and merriment brought by it. Also, the etymology teaches us that a game is a sport. But what is a sport? Before investigating this, I want you to notice that Ms. Elsa never asked herself what a game or what a sport is. She gives her opinion on things, but never offers any kind of meditation on it. Is thinking that hard, Ms. Elsa?

The word "sport" was first attested in 1400, meaning "to take pleasure, to amuse oneself". This word came from the anglo-french "disport", which came from the old French "desport", which means pastime, recreation, pleasure". The old French verb "desporter" means "to divert, amuse, please, play". Only in the late 15th century did the word "sport" became connected with active exercise in open air. Thus, sport is that thing you do when you're not fighting for survival. Anything which falls in the field of pleasure, amusement and diversion is a sport. In conclusion, a sport is a game. Every sport is a game, and every game is a sport. It doesn't matter if it's sport or eSports, because the essence of it lies within the collective experience manifested through joy, pleasure and amusement. The internet is not a separate world, Ms. Elsa! Calling eSports 'false' because of the 'e' doesn't make any sense at all.

I could stop here, because it has already been proven that Ms. Elsa's attempt to distinguish between games and sports is arbitrary and false. But checking the dictionary isn't enough. So, let us meditate on the theme a little further. Let us ask ourselves now: what is the essence of every single game and sport? What does soccer, basketball, volleyball, football, rugby, Starcraft, DotA, Counter-Strike, etc, have in common? One part of the answer is obvious: they are a collective experience that gathers a huge amount of different people around the same thing. The other part of the answer is less obvious, but still very important: every game and sports offers humans a chance to improve themselves in some way. By facing an opponent, one has the chance to overcome their inabilities and improve as a human, or, at least, the opportunity to have fun. This is the essence of the Olympic Games. This is the essence of any kind of game and sport, even the ones that you play alone - in the end, you're playing with yourself to improve yourself. But, you might ask, does DotA gives you the chance to improve yourself as a human? Of course it does! I'll now quote the Indigo Child himself, LightOfHeaven, one of the best DotA players around. It's part of an interview conducted by Prodota.ru and translated by ins, a member of GosuGamers community (you can find it here: http://www.gosugamers.net/dota/thread/519931-1st-interviw-with-lightofheaven).

"Q: In terms of achievements in DotA do you have something to strive for? And if you have tell us what it is.

A: Firstly I strive to improve my physical and mental processes in my organism.

Q: Does this help?

A: Yes, this is why I play."

If DotA or Starcraft doesn't give you anything, Ms. Elsa, it's your problem, not the game's problem. I can only say that I'm sorry for you, because you don't have the slightest idea of what you're losing. For me, Starcraft and DotA are like poetry in motion.

But, let us stop talking to miss Elsa now and take a deep look into ourselves. As I said before, any game or sport (be sport or esport) is, before anything, a collective experience centered around joy, amusement and fun, giving us a chance as humans to improve ourselves. However, a lot of people says that our community - the DotA community - is the worst community around. Some people exaggerate this, because there are very good people in the community, always ready to help newcomers. But it is also true that there are people whose immaturity is a problem. With the imminent coming of Dota 2, it is time to address this issue. We can't let our immaturity ruin our game, a game that took so long to be recognized. Dota 2 is like a fairy tale becoming true, we shouldn't waste this. The range of possibilities for Dota 2's scene is huge, but what will really happens depends on it's community. It's time for us to mature, because the scene needs this to work its magic.

The International already showed the game potential. I saw people who never watched Dota before having a lot of fun after struggling to understand the first few games. I saw fair and fierce competition. I saw TobiWanKenobi and Slesh casting like there's no tomorrow, always keeping the hype alive. And we can expect this to last for a long time, because the next The International has been announced by Valve and Icefrog and certainly other tournaments will pop up as soon as the open beta starts. With this much evidence, who would dare to challenge the notion that the Dota 2 scene will only continue to grow?

Of course, the task is an uphill struggle. Sometimes people are stupid, sometimes we're stupid. Sometimes people aren't on their best days, sometimes we're not on our best days. But let us not use others or our own problems as an excuse to be stupid. Let us stop flaming newbies or taking everything seriously. It's a game (or it's a sport?), guys and girls. We're supposed to have fun together. The game will only be able to unleash it's potential if we respect it as a game. It is time to get past these minor things and worry with real things, for example, the volatile economic situation (in Europe and in the US) which is a real threat to the whole eSports community. I'm not saying that one should love everyone that belongs to the community, but that one should act responsibly as a gamer. Give the game and it's community a chance. I promise you will not regret it.

Where to, DotA? #1
Where to, DotA? #2: Ten Steps to Having a Good Game of DotA by HonourGuard



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