Esports: The hostility and why it needs to be resolved
Ah yes, Ye olde days when competitive gaming became respected....at least in some places. With the current claims of League of Legends being the 'noob' version of Dota 2, would you believe that this was once a common lashing towards DotA? If you weren't into the RTS scene at the time, the attitude towards DotA and WC3 in general was brutal and not so well received. If the message boards were full of children (which, even though less frequently than now, they definitely were), the Starcraft elitists would not let you express your opinion without hammering you down with demeaning text.
Okay, had to get that nostalgia out of my system.
Okay, had to get that nostalgia out of my system.
The same applied to Counter-Strike from the die-hard Quake fans, who swore by twitch reactions, mechanical prowess, and advanced technique such as rocket jumping and strafe jumping to improve maneuverability and bestow yourself with an advantage to those who did not utilize these techniques. It may be hard to believe that these two titles, which are now nearly considered the paragon of absolute skill, were being shot down in such a manner, but as we can see this bigotry has rooted from the dawn of cyber competition.
Let's take a trip down memory lane and establish what it was like to be 'competitive' back in the beginning of the millenium up until about 2006, shall we? Much of what was considered "skill" back then came down to a science. Players would capitalize on things that weren't intended and games were played in ways that the developers did not want it to be played. Communities would form strategies and share secrets with one another, studying information down to a science and developing methods to "abuse" certain aspects of the game.
By some miracle, this dawned some mind-blowing ideas where people would substitute standard play with bursts of intuitive genius, propelling competitive gaming to where it is today. Take the classic "Terran wall", for example. Now, back in 1999, players had already adapted this into their strategy, utilizing depots and turtling in their base while they build up their fantastic 200/200 Battlecruiser army. However, once more efficient methods were found, they were adopted into standard play and recognized in such a way. This was the 1/2 depot 1 rax wall and it became core to every Terran player's arsenal.
So why were they hostile?
This question can be answered in a multitude of ways. Firstly, gaming competitively wasn't so mainstream as it is seen today. A very niche audience was filled with gamers that didn't want to kick back on their sofa in repose in front of their TV, but "keyboard warriors" who were a rare breed and idolized their Korean idols amongst others. For one to begin to understand the root of anger in the E-Sports culture, we must remember just how much practice and research one would exert into it to even be viable on the competitive gaming map.
Information didn't come as easily as it does today. Sure, Google was around and you could still look at replays and guides (and there was also BWCoach), but now we have a wide arsenal of tools for our games. Where first person replays were once a luxury in RTS games, one can now simply watch one of their favorite streamers and learn in first person like they do, or in some cases, automate the game for them in such a way that competitive MMO's play out, with macros and add-ons easing the entry point to competitive play. To put it bluntly, you either knew your shit or you were out.
For this reason, there will always be the tradition of exhibiting dominance and cases of elitism when AT (Advanced Technique) is involved, especially in a time when acquiring information wasn't exactly up to speed. There was a great deal of pride to hang onto because you knew you were ahead of the curve, and you knew you didn't learn what you did from luck, but from hard work. Though this kind of arrogance should be frowned upon, it's not entirely unwarranted. If we look back to the private ladders of Starcraft Brood War, one could train years and never reach "C" (from a scale of D- to Olympic rating, which was above A+). The reward seems so much closer and accessible nowadays with ratings such as "gold" being depicted as relatively average for a competing, hard working player despite actual percentage of people that make it into those leagues in League of Legends and Starcraft 2.
Sure, it made you feel like a small fry. But since the big leagues were so out of reach, you really felt rewarded for placing higher on these ladders of old. The skill floors were arguably higher, resources were not as vast, and rather than things changing at the whim of complaints, it was required to suck it up and adapt to what you deemed overpowered or broken.
So we've discussed that pride is an issue since the dawn of E-Sports and has enfeebled the growth of it dramatically. Nobody wanted to be that noob that stuck with the "easy games" when they were a kid and they wanted to show their cyber worth for whatever reason; gamers were afraid to expand their repertoire of competitive games. We must understand that this was an age that facilitated primarily community and passion driven tournaments and were not natively supported by developing companies themselves. Do you think 10 years ago, in the midst of Counter-Strike, Starcraft, and DotA, that League of Legends would have made it as a competitive title, or do you think it would have fallen into a sorrowful abyss of competitive inadequacy without the help of Riot? Or the better question - Does it really matter?
Where are we now?
Let's be honest, proportionate to the exponential growth of E-Sports and competitive gaming, we are far from a hateful dystopia filled with civil war, but that doesn't mean things don't need to change. The current trifecta that most would argue are leading the scene is League of Legends, Dota2, and Starcraft 2 - all of which have their own elitist followings and all which are, ironically, simplified versions of the titles we touched on earlier in this article. We all have our favorites, but let's look at the broad picture; E-Sports is embraced more in western culture within the last two years than it has been for the last ten. It's not too uncommon to go to a party and find out a fellow buddy of yours plays League of Legends and watches the tournaments and ends up being a huge fan of Dyrus, Ocelote, or Doublelift. Looking at the broad perspective, this was unheard of in times prior to 2010, or at least exceedingly rare. We are closing the gap to what qualifies as a sport all over the world, and while the metropolis of E-Sports still lies within the walls of South Korea, we are steadily approaching that level in terms of production quality and fanbase.
Fanbases never before seen in the United States filled up the sports arena utilized for the Season 2 World Championships in October for League of Legends -- we've come a long way bringing e-sports into the mainstream, and all because it's accessible. Watching VODs downloaded from Korean torrents have been replaced with HD livestreams with professional casters of all languages, League of Legends is a free to play game that has become a revolutionary intervention to the absurd entry barriers that have shied many a once brave soul away from competing in the top class amongst other legends.
Current day social media have made great efforts to make fan interaction with a once untouchable class of celebrity magnificently easier, so the scene always has a way to feel a personal connection with the streamer and their personality. Professionalism is beyond anything it's been to us "foreigners" outside of the Korean border for competitive gaming and we can now see in-depth into the souls and ambitions of the players, which only drives our thirst for our champions to win and curiosity for more results with each incoming event that passed. Our relation to those players is now very akin to the relation of a true Green Bay Packers' fan to Brett Favre, or a Basketball fan in general to Micheal Jordan. We feel a lot closer and more relevant and more on the inside scoop. This combined with the lower skill floors of our current day games has made E-Sports as mainstream as it is today.
However, despite the fact that together we have manifested a platform for games to truly be recognized as a sport and for players and fans to not be degraded into the typical "no-life nerd"< we continue to fight and battle. The slate needs to be wiped clean and we need to combat ourselves and embrace some self-control to get E-Sports where want it to be. We've come this far, let's not lead ourselves onto a path of self destruction. Tidying up is all we really need to do to become recognized and respected on a global scale.
As passionate E-Sports followers, we have come a long way in terms of building ourselves up and grasping an audience of massive proportions on a global scale. Unfortunately, there's times where we are taking steps back to progressing. Naturally, like sports, there will always be a bit of rivalry or banter between the various demographs. Someone who enjoys Basketball may tease a Baseball player regarding the passivity of a game, while Football (Soccer) may criticize American Football fans for it not being nearly as intense or complicated. This applies to a multitude of categories, including militaristic branches. The difference is it is generally in jest and respective is given where respect is due.
We need to break free from the chains of ignorance and encourage others to do so as well. What if something catastrophic would happen to eSports and us passionate followers and fans had to just watch as it fell before us? In the ideal mindset of some, one eSport would reign supreme, making our vision bereft of life and deceased. We need to embrace each other and respect one another in this conglomerate ecosystem we have built for ourselves. There's no better time than now to shift your views on one another, calm down, hold hands and remind yourself that we are all in love with the same entity.
The dexterity, passion, and the fight for something new, something rewarding, something peaceful -- A way to clash swords with one another without hurting one another, a fill for the competitive drive in our souls resolved in a battle of will and intelligence in lieu of senseless violence. We've banded a once petty community encompassing everything in unison, and just because we've grown doesn't mean we should start tearing down the beautiful stronghold we have fabricated for ourselves. Rid yourselves of the disdain for your peers playing the other games and start embracing the fact that competition between the titles makes every developer strive harder to make their game the better sport. It's an ever growing competition in and out of the game.
We all need one another, like it or not. If we want to be seen as a "real sport," (that is all of us) then we need to change the views of being a bunch of juvenile children spending too much time on a computer and instead invigorate ourselves to demonstrate who we really are - a neighborhood of fans, players, and volunteers building a dream and a foundation for the future. We need to cease the hate and build our ecosystem for our children and the future generation to be accepted for what they love. Do we want competitive gaming to be seen as a real sport? Then let's do something about it. No more pussyfooting around the issue, we need to grow up, embrace our competitors, and build ourselves up for years to come. It's us versus the world in terms of size and acceptance. There's nothing to be ashamed of when you're breathing eSports, this is our passion and endeavor. eSports will, in the end, be what we make it - and as the growing minority in the industry of entertainment, I suggest we band together and start working towards a common cause. Let's look at the bigger picture and help one another reach the potential we deserve.