LANS without spectators; Is the thrill gone?
LANS have finally resumed but without any spectators on-site. How does this impact the thrill of the game and competitive spirit?
Competitive players dream of walking out on bigger stages with brighter lights and the audience erupting into a frenzy when they step into the arena.
Some crowd roars are like nothing heard before. The thunderous applause, deafening cheers, and electrifying buzz coming off the rollicking crowds transform the atmosphere into a living, breathing beast.
Then in 2020, it all went silent. The global pandemic of Coronavirus interrupted gameplay, delayed the new season, there were no LANs, and TI was postponed for a full year. It was over a full year later before the LAN made its return to Dota 2.
If 2020 will be remembered as the year without LANs then 2021 may be remembered as the year without LAN spectators.
But if a tree falls in the woods but there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a historic game or play takes place and there is no crowd to explode into cheers did it happen?
Just how much does it impact the thrill of the game and who does it affect the most?
LANS without spectators; Audience participation
A very real factor in the absence of an audience at LAN events is not only how games played in empty arenas will look and feel on our screens, but how the quality of the play itself will be.
Over and over again, we have heard of stories about how much a crowd energizes players, how they can change the tide, and how it can almost be considered the soul of live competition in sports and esports alike.
Fans are integral to the game itself — to the intensity, to the rhythm, to the pulse, and the mentality of the players.
In 2019 Carlo “Kuku” Palad insulted the Chinese community using a racial slur in pub games and then was consequently banned from participation in Chongqing Major, as well as WESG. When he returned to compete in China for The International 2019, at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai the crowd made sure that he and the team knew that they didn't forget nor forgive.
The at-home-field advantage does exist. From the crowd fueling the energy to even caster's calling out team's movements, there is a definite advantage for teams playing in their home country as candidly pointed out by Alliance COO and ex-team manager Kelly Ong in a periscope broadcast from Manila in 2016.
LANS without spectators; Organizers picking up the pieces
When traditional sports returned to the playing fields they turned to the use of artificial crowd noise or cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands to recreate the feeling of packed stadiums and arenas - for both the players and viewers at home. Artificial, surreal, and disorienting, you could almost convenience yourself that everything was back to normal if you zoned or squinted hard enough.
Esports already has the upper hand in that tournament organizers have been using Augmented Reality and other advanced technology in their event productions.
However, without ticket sales tournament organizers are not able to rent out the larger venues to hold events. Instead, they are forced to resort to building stages in hotel conference rooms where all of the staff and teams are staying.
The result? A scramble to find a balance in production value that is able to deliver a spectacular product on-screen while providing the same hype and thrill the players have become accustomed to in live competition.
The ONE Esports Singapore Major fell short of such experience. Host and analyst panel was basically a room draped in green screen with a stagnant backdrop projected and some fly couriers providing a bit of distraction for viewers at home. The make-shift booths on the stage in a conference room were underwhelming. There was barely any theatrics, certainly no hype. And who can forget the awkward lifting of the
trophy wrestling belt by iG in front of .....no one?
Certainly an anti-climatic end to the season, especially for Chinese teams and fans whose league play is on a stage in front of an audience.
It was a very disappointing return of the LAN and left many scratching their heads, wondering if this was the future of LANs and the best we could do.
Unless you are WePlay Esports —who was already plotting and planning a grand entrance into the DPC Major events.
WePlay esports have already corned the tournament market as true storytellers. They do more than just deliver events, they create stories that connect with people on an emotional level, allowing everyone to be a part of the experience.
In a climate where spectators are lacking, they have an opportunity to stand out even more than the rest of the pack, considering they have their own arena.
There is little doubt that WePlay Esports will continue to create events of the highest caliber bringing the production value to the next level making fans eager to tune in.
If WePlay Esports can deliver a spectacular LAN event that is able to recapture the thrill, there will be much hope for fans around the world that The International 10 will still be able to hold a special place in esports events.
WePlay AniMajor is set to begin on the 2nd of June with the Wild Card matches. The group stage action will unfold June 4-7 and will give the final six teams for the playoffs stage, so make sure to tune in and witness what is the final show before TI10!