I posted awhile back about going to a bar to watch the opening of the League of Legends Summer Split tournament. Since then the organizers, known as League of Libations, have organized other viewings of the event at bars. I am, in fact, planning to attend one tomorrow night. As I’ve watched more games, I’ve picked up on a couple of things that I think make watching e-Sports distinctly enjoyable (outside of the very obvious), so I thought I’d share.
1.) Relatable-ness (it’s a word now)
E-Sports are actually very enjoyable for almost the exact opposite reason that athletic sports are. Though many of us grew up playing on various sports teams in high school or middle school, that tends to stop at around college unless you happen to be very serious about the sport. I’m going to posit that most people who watch sports do so for entertainment rather than as a learning experience. Sure, there are some aspiring or current athletes out there who can learn how to improve their game by watching the pros play, but by and large that does not make up the viewership. When we tune in to watch athletic events, we do so because we want to watch people who can do things we never could and never will be able to do. There’s nothing we can really learn from watching these events that we could apply to our own playing of the game. For instance, watching the NFL does not improve my flag football skills, and I’m not in a position to ever play in the NFL, so what I could learn doesn’t really apply to my life. What I do learn teaches me to enjoy the sport more, by having a greater understanding of what is going on, and perhaps making better picks during my fantasy drafts.
I suppose you can say something similar about e-Sports, since only a tiny percentage of a game’s players are able to go pro. However, by watching the pros play, I can learn things that I can directly apply to my own gaming experience. Am I likely to go pro at League or any other game? No. But I can still take things away from the games I watch and directly apply them to my play so that I can improve. Watching professionals play can directly lead to me being a better player and enjoying my gaming experience more because I am able to win more often.
As an aside, being able to relate to the game might be somewhat of a stretch for people who don’t play the game, but chances are, if you don’t play League, you’re not likely to want to tune in to the live streams for the tournaments. I suppose this is a downside since athletic sports are watched by all sorts of people, and e-Sports tend to be watched by gamers, or at least people who play the game. However, in Asian countries, like Korea or Taiwan, we see that there is a much broader following of e-Sports. After the Taipei Assassins became the World Champions at the end of Season 2 of League of Legends, they became celebrities in Taiwan and the win was printed on the front page of all the country’s major newspapers. In time, as people grow up playing video games and appreciating the competitive scenes that some of them have, I can easily see e-Sports having a similarly large following in the US and Europe.
2.) Blow-outs are still fun to watch
This ties in pretty closely to my previous point. In athletic sports, people don’t like to see blow out wins or losses. If your team is the one doing the winning, then it’s not as bad, and it’s actually a bit relaxing as a fan, since you don’t have to go through the anxiety of watching your team struggle. But most of the time, we want to see a good close battle, and one where our team preferably comes out ahead in the end (but even if they don’t, at least it was well fought).
In e-Sports, close games are also the best viewing experiences. However, just because a team is being blown out, doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop watching a game. Again, this is a learning opportunity. Since I’m able to apply what I watch to my own play, it helps me to understand why a team won or lost so convincingly. I can try to mimic the play style of the winners or convince my team to follow their strategies, since they are successful. In athletics, it’s an interesting intellectual exercise to watch and understand why a team lost badly, but I can’t apply it to anything, and so most of the time it just ends up being boring to watch a blow-out.
3.) No referees!
If there’s one thing I hate in sports, it’s when a game is decided by bad calls from the officials. I was incredibly upset by the Fail Mary game last year, and I don’t even root for the Seahawks or the Packers. One great thing about e-Sports is that there aren’t any officials to make “on the field calls”. Sure, if you watch the live streams, there are referees hovering around, and there are rules that the players have to abide by. However, these are mostly conduct based. Referees don’t have any say in what happens during the game. The game itself will tell the players what is or isn’t legal by allowing them to do it (or not). There aren’t any judgment calls being made, so everything you see in the game is purely the skill and decision making of the players involved. From a viewer’s standpoint I think this is a great thing because I never have to wonder if a call going another way might have changed things. Whether a team wins or loses is based on their play and their decisions, not the influence of a third party.
These are three points I picked up on while watching e-Sports, things that I think made my viewing experience more fun and interesting. If you haven’t checked out an e-Sports game before, specifically League, I recommend it (and you can do it from the comfort of your home on the interwebz). One thing I will say is that it may be difficult to watch without some background in the game. Currently the casters do not go into great depth explaining more basic concepts. Since the viewership goes to them and is composed of people who play the game, that isn’t really an issue, though it may be something that has to change if the game starts getting more general coverage.
Anyway, if you’re looking for something new I’d check it out, and follow as best you can. Who knows, you might find it entertaining? As an added note, look out for my next post which is going to be talking about some of the potential strengths of e-Sports and why it could be an awesome sports viewing experience in the future.