eSports are…

Breathtaking

By Max Shi (Sports Co-Editor)

photo by Max Shi

It was the grand finals: the American Evil Geniuses faced off against the Chinese Dota Elite Community (CDEC) team. As I sat on the top deck of KeyArena in Seattle, my eyes drifted over to the players’ booths. Those people, who have invested thousands of hours in their lives to compete at the top of the Dota 2 food chain, are now mere specks in my vision. Moving back to the huge Jumbotron suspended in the middle of the arena, 15,000 people watched in-person combined with 4 million online viewers as the moment that sealed the tournament happened in front of their eyes.

“And the DUNK! In from Universe! It’s a disaster! CDEC are going to get wiped off the face of the earth!”

The collective cheers of the American audience applauding drowned out the groans of the devastated Chinese fans. Sparks, fireworks, and excitement lit up the arena as the American team claimed their $5 million prize fifteen minutes later.

This happened two years ago and is still cemented as one of my most memorable experiences regarding eSports, or competitive video gaming. While the language, mechanics, and nuances of each game may be completely foreign, this page will facilitate understanding and possibly even participation in one of the fastest-growing entertainment and competition mediums in recent history.

 

Engaging 

By Tyler Chen (Online Co-Editor)

The live spectating experience in eSports is one of constant energy, with the crowd erupting into roars and chants after every big play. Viewers watch a large screen showing in-game action, which is sometimes accompanied by videos of player reactions. Game audio is overlaid with commentary by a team of usually two casters. To anyone who has watched a traditional sport, the viewing experience would not be unfamiliar.

As with both eSports and traditional sports, however, most fans enjoy watching games at home. The website twitch.tv, a live-streaming service geared toward gamers, has become a hub for at-home viewing of eSports events. Rather than shouting or holding up signs like at a live event, Twitch viewers interact through the website’s chat feature, an all-in-one service with features like rooting for favorite players or trash-talking their rivals.

This ubiquity of livestreaming in eSports has also allowed for more personal interaction between professional gamers and their fans. Some of the more unique personalities in the scene draw in high viewership by livestreaming their practice games. Dota 2’s Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, for instance, is known for both his high risk high reward playstyle and his incessant love for Japanese pop culture. Fans can tune in to see more of his nerve wracking gameplay or even ask him questions directly by making a small donation. Such an experience is unique to eSports, and contributes to its growing appeal.

 

Cooperative

By Jacques Scheire (Contributing Writer)

graphic by Avery Hom

Community is everything when it comes to eSports. The crowd is vital to the game’s popularity and just like with any other sport, spectators often have their favorite players and teams to root for. At any major eSports tournament, top players are seen as star athletes, and one could expect enormous lines for their autographs. But these players would not be renowned if it wasn’t for the community’s support. The community behind a game aids tremendously in the process of creating an eSports scene and making tournaments possible. For instance, the most recent International Tournament for Dota 2 had a prize pool of almost $25 million, completely funded by the community.

A huge role the community plays is in feedback to the game developers. The community provides insight ranging from pointing out imbalances or glitches in the game that need to be fixed in order to make the game fair to suggesting new features that could potentially be added to the game. Online platforms like Reddit and Twitter, as well as official forums run by the developers themselves, not only serve as mediums for discussion, but also as platforms for sharing questions, moments, and ideas. All of these contribute to bring an eSports community together, and make it a unique collective of people.

 

Lucrative

By Eric Li (Contributing Writer)

Projected to reach $1.5 billion in revenue by 2020, eSports has attracted a lot of attention from the sports industry and media alike.

Tournament prize pools are the biggest and most publicized sources of money in eSports. Through methods like crowdfunding, last year’s League of Legends World Championship raised $6.7 million, and Dota 2’s The International 2017 offered nearly $25 million, the largest tournament prize in the history of eSports. Alternatively, the two annual Counter Strike: Global Offensive “Majors” offer $1 million each through direct funding from the developer.

Additionally, the tournaments themselves offer even more sources of revenue. Companies, such as the Electronic Sports League, host tournaments for games, usually on a schedule provided by the developer. Then, these companies find sponsors, run ads, and create a prizepool for which teams can compete for. Most events also have the option of a live audience, creating more revenue through ticket sales.

Due to such growth, celebrities have taken notice, investing into eSports, further propelling the upward trend. Shark Tank star and businessman Mark Cuban has invested in eSports betting, where fans can predict the outcomes of games for money, while Shaquille O’Neal is an owner of NRG eSports, which has teams in Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Jeremy Lin has even collaborated with the Chinese organization Vici Gaming, creating a Dota 2 team under his own name called VG.J.

 

Diverse

By Alan Wo (Staff Writer)

Like in traditional sports, competitors specialize on a single game, unless they are Bo Jackson. Even the differences between similar games under the same genre such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are nearly impossible hurdles to overcome at the highest level. eSports encompass many genres, each radically different in format, controls, and popularity. At the top of prizepool and viewership charts sits action real-time strategy games, or ARTS. Titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends top the charts because of their viewer-friendly nature. Another immensely popular genre include first-person shooters, or FPS, including Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and the Halo and Call of Duty series. Other genres include racing, strategy, cards, and fighting. Games vary in controls, whether it be keyboard and mouse, game controller, joystick, or racing wheel. Often, the same game can be played on different platforms, like PC, PS4 or Xbox, though usually one platform becomes the go-to for competitive play, such as the PC for Rocket League, which is also available for Xbox, PS4, and the Nintendo Switch.

 

Imperfect 

By Leah Williamson (Contributing Writer)

graphic by Laura Bussemaker

The world of eSports, as a newer form of competition, still faces imperfection. One main example is toxicity, which is disrespectful behavior against other players over the Internet, for both competitive and casual players. Game developers try their hardest to control the feuds between the more casual players. Report systems were introduced to provide a platform that one can use to relay information about abusive behavior from others, helping to implement punishment. A creative system in Overwatch is replacing certain disrespectful keywords with comical phrases like “Mommy says people my age shouldn’t suck their thumbs,” and “I could really use a hug right now.” Nevertheless, when the abuse is too great, players are banned, and their accounts are removed from the game.

In the more competitive environment, the punishments for toxicity are more case-to-case rather than the automated systems implemented for the average player. Counter Strike: Global Offensive player Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir was seen on his livestream bullying another player, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. After public outcry, Abadir was fined by his organization and forced to attend anti-bullying courses.

Another issue facing eSports is match-fixing, where players will abuse betting and earn money by losing intentionally. This issue undermines the competitive aspect, and overall hurts the growth of the competition. One examples was Southeast-Asian Dota 2 team Arrow Gaming, who were found guilty of match-fixing in regional tournaments. After being found guilty, the players and organization were banned indefinitely from all tournaments that the game developer, Valve, sponsored, effectively ending the career of each player on the team.

 

Dynamic

By Alan Wo (Staff Writer)

graphic by Avery Hom

Traditional sports change. Three-point shooting is at the highest it’s ever been in basketball. But the court, the rim, and the ball have remained more or less the same since its inception. In eSports, patches or updates are added to the game every few months , changing the competitive scene and balance. Once upon a time, the NCAA banned dunking to try stopping an unstoppable Kareem Abdul Jabbar. But video game developers are constantly balancing the strength of weapons, heroes, champions — whatever they can to keep the game fresh and balanced, and continually keep players and spectators interested. Whether it be the introduction of new characters in Injustice, guns in Call of Duty, or champions in League of Legends, eSports is ever-evolving. Minute changes like a reshaping of the map in Dota 2 can drastically speed up the pace of the game, and simple number tweaks like the damage of a pistol can disrupt the entire balance of games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Even the games themselves can change. Once-dominant titles like Starcraft 2, Quake and Street Fighter III have given way for countless successors. Once their popularity wanes with the release of new titles, and the game becomes dated, players will move onto similar contemporaries, such as many players from Team Fortress 2 moving to Overwatch.

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